Sunday, 29 April 2012

Avengers Assemble

There's a movie I'd like to see called Avengers Assemble. Thing is I've not been to the cinema since Bug was born. We're still breastfeeding on an evening -- I use 'we' as in 'we're in this together' as I've tried, and entirely failed, to lactate. Months have gone with nowt squeezed out. The other night I was sat on the sofa with my top off. Bug clocked my man boob and leaned in for a nibble. Bear hummed the Jaws theme. Everyone held their breath before the sound of Upsy Daisy distracted Bug from a potentially odd -- and ultimately disappointing -- father/daughter moment.

Because Bear needs to be around to feed Bug, we never go out after 18.30. I could, you know. People say things to me like 'would you like to come out after 18.30?' Mostly it's to go to the pub and I'm not much of a drinker. Even if I did like a pint, it wouldn't be fair. Bear's not been out with friends since Bug arrived so it would be a little unkind of me to enjoy the life of Riley. Of course, if I told Bear I was off to the cinema she'd have no problems with it mainly because she's a lovely bundle of loveliness. Still, it wouldn't be right.

So we stay at home. Which isn't a bad thing. There's my once a night Bug kiss for starters. 10 minutes after we've gone through to Bug's room to settle her to sleep, she gives Bear and I a single, solitary kiss. First Mum, then Dad. Always after 10 minutes. It's like we're on rations. Last night, Bug goes kiss kiss then proceeds to spend 30 minutes trying to squeeze her tiny wee foot into a cardboard cup while endlessly repeating the word 'bubble.'  It was beautiful. 

Actually, I'd rather be with my girls than anything else I can imagine.

With this in mind, I've decided to write a brief history of the film I'd like to see using its title as my sole reference point. I'm aiming for 90% accuracy:

Avengers Assemble  

The idea for Avengers Assemble came about after a chance meeting at Comic Con '85 between Stan Lee and the founder of IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad. At the time, Kamprad was trying to increase IKEA's market share in the US. Impressed by Hasbro's ability to promote Transformer toys via the medium of cartoons, Kamprad wanted Lee to do the same with soft furnishings. The two men spoke frequently over the next few weeks finally developing ideas for Avengers Assemble. Here's some early concept art involving Iron Man and Thor:

It's interesting to note that it hadn't been decided what, if anything, the Avengers should assemble. Lee was in favour of the enigmatic. He wanted the title of the film to use ellipses, as in:

Avengers Assemble...

That way, he argued, each subsequent film could simply add product as a subtitle.

Kamprad hated it. Like everything IKEA, he wanted the title to reflect content:

Avengers Assemble a Sundvik Bed Frame (£89.99)

Lee thought it too heavy handed.

An impasse had been reached. The ponderers pondered. It took twenty five years but a decision was decided and it was thus:

Avengers Assemble

Both men adored it. As Stan Lee said in the now infamous Michael Parkinson interview: what do the Avengers assemble? Whatever the fuck they want to!

The rest, as they say, is history.

Bye for now.


Monday, 23 April 2012

Girls who are boys who like boys to be girls

During the pregnancy I was adamant Bug wasn't going to be wearing pink. I often said things like  'none of that shite in our house.' I didn't want her to conform to what society expects at such an early age -- there will be pressure enough when she's older.

It's only over the past century that boys have donned blue and girls pink. Before that we all wore dresses. Someone decided (I'm looking at you Freud) that if children wore the wrong thing they'd grow up perverted, and as we all know a small boy in a white frock will grow up a donkey knobber.

With full knowledge of how passionately I felt, Bear dressed Bug in a pink baby grow two days after she was born. I turned to my girlfriend and took a stand on an issue hugely important to me by screeching 'oh my god she looks fucking adorable!'

From that day on, pink was in. Not all the way, of course, but a girly foot in the door.

I had my morals though -- even if I was prepared to discard them at the first sign of cuteness -- so I started looking for gender neutral clothes and quickly discovered that shops don't stock them. If it's pink, yellow or flowery it's in the girl section. If it's any other animal, vegetable or mineral then it's for boys.

Here's an example. This is a hoody we bought Bug using money sent from her Great Granny: 

It's a (non-mating) panda. Bug points to it, smiles, and says 'bear.' She knows what it is and she's a girl. Yet it's only available in the boys section. When did pandas become boy specific? Is this why they have problems breeding?

A quick glance online shows these items on clothing for boys: Star Wars, Mr.Men, an octopus, Snoopy, a robot, a dinosaur, and finally: letters and numerals.

I am a child of Star Wars. It was the first film I ever saw at the cinema. I watched one of the three films almost daily as a child. It is my one true love and it broke my heart. Throughout all of this, I never had Star Wars down as a film for boys. I'm pretty certain George Lucas didn't either, if only for the extra revenue stream. Try telling this little girl that Star Wars is only available in boy sizes:

Perhaps it's easier to feel like this about clothing when you have a daughter. I like to think I'd be the same if I had a son. But would I? If I asked my hypothetical son what he'd like to wear for the day and he pointed to a dress, would I say 'not fucking likely' or would I ask him what he'd like to coordinate it with?

The best thing about rhetorical questions is that I don't have to answer.

A quick search for girls clothes shows flowers if you're dignified, slogans such as 'don't you wish your daughter was hot like me?' (ages 1-7) if you're not. I should be happy: the letters on the boys clothes are a random assortment where as the letters on the girls clothing quite clearly make a complex sentence. Go girls. The happiness is somewhat diminished by the horrific hyper-sexualisation of children not out of nappies.

As Jimmy Carr says: what's the biggest cause of paedophilia in this country? Sexy kids. 

Bye for now. 



This particular blog is far from finished. I've been a bit off colour the past couple of days, though when I started blogging I set myself a target of a blog a week and I'm going to stick with it.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Flat-pack children

No one tells you how to be a parent. No one even warns you. All the way through the pregnancy I kept expecting my parents to let me on the secret, or at least hand me their worn copy of 'The Big Book of Baby Rearing.'

It never happened. Perhaps because 'baby rearing' is illegal in most countries; perhaps because our parents – like ourselves – had no fucking clue how to raise a child. Seventeen months with Bug has helped me to realise that my folks have spent the best part of 38 years blagging it.

The bastards.

All that time thinking they were infallible and it turns out my parents were making shit up. Whenever I phoned them for hints during Bug's early days there would be a pause between my asking a question and their answering. At the time I thought they were considering what advice to give. Turns out they were just trying to remember what they did before suggesting I do the opposite.

While Bear was pregnant, we read the usual array of parenting books. After pounds spent and words read I came to this conclusion: parenting books are full of shite. It's all about crafting the perfect child. All of our friends are raising their children differently to how we're raising Bug. Some parent similarly, others may as well be on a different planet. We all do what we think is best for our child and yet none of our kids attain the perfection these books demand.

I envisage a longer, more ranting blog about parenting books in the not so near future.

Watch this space.

Until then, here's some help that may be more useful than baby manuals. Firstly, a selection of health and safety tips that the most lovely J sent me each week during Bear's pregnancy: 

Next up, a book with a message all new parents can relate to:


And finally, if all else fails, keep it simple:


Bye for now.


Monday, 9 April 2012

Danger danger

Last week Bear bought Bug a new book. There's often a new book in our house: it's the house literature built. This particular one's called 'You' and is a small board book written and illustrated by Emma Dodd:

Depending on your viewpoint it's either a wonderful story about a parent's infinite love of their child, or a piece of wishy washy liberal bullshit. I'm with the former.

Bug loves the book. It's got monkeys in it and she's a friend to all things simian. After our first or second read through, Bug noticed this message on the back cover and raised an eyebrow:


The first sentence suggests the book should be shared. I'm good with that; Bug's only recently started vocalising language, so it's a bit much to expect her to read it on her own. 

Good advice. Thanks book!

On to the second sentence: We do not advise that you leave your child with it unsupervised. 

I gave the book a wee shake. 

A box of matches, Gary Glitter, and Hitler very much failed to fall out from between its covers.

I reread the book less it be full of subliminal National Front propaganda, what with Bug having a penchant for such things. 

Here's part of National Front immigration policy: The National Front would halt all non-white immigration into Britain and introduce a policy of phased repatriation.

And here's one of the more controversial statements from 'You': I love your smile, I love your frown, your whispers and your giggles.

Not exactly Mein Kampf.

Which left me wondering what could possible happen if I left Bug and the book unsupervised. I know it's mental, but I popped out of the room for 30 nervous seconds.

When I returned, Bug was on fire. That'll teach me.

Actually, when I returned Bug was turning the pages of the book with hands covered in jam. It seemed that it was the book that was in danger.

The book was in danger.

Could that be it? Could the message be aimed at keeping the book safe?

When Bug became interested in books, we put all the ones she owned within easy reach of her little hands. When we told friends, one or two asked if we were worried that she'd damage the books. Our response was something akin to 'are we worried she'll damage a book that cost us 15p from a charity shop?'

Now I'm wondering if people keep books from their children?  Does the message suggest we should? I once counted how many books Bug and I read a day. On that occasion it was 23, many of them twice and thrice. I never choose a book or decide it's story time. She decides. Is this book suggesting I put a stop to this in case jam hands get on a few pages?

I'd be interested to hear what other folks do.

I'd also be interested to know if there's other interpretations for the message. I may be missing something.

Until then:

Bye for now.


Monday, 2 April 2012

Things that go bump all day long

Children fall over a lot. It's how they learn about gravity. It seems that in 350 years we've advanced from an apple falling on the head to a child tumbling from a climbing frame. That's progress.

Bug is always covered in bruises. Bruises and cuts. Bruises, cuts and bumps. My only job is to make sure that Bug's okay. Each day I spend a few minutes telling myself that today's the day Bug goes bump free. By the time I'm convinced she's already walked into a radiator, fell off the sofa, and on really bad days, been on fire.

With each bump comes layer after layer of guilt. It's like confession when Bear gets back from work:

BEAR: Did you guys have a nice...

ME: She walked into the climbing frame and her legs fell off! Don't judge me! Don't judge me!

Every time there's a knock at the door -- maybe twice a year, we're not popular -- I expect it to be the child protection services. This isn't helped by my attempts at humour. For example, at our Monday morning play group Bug ran head first into a little girl. Another bump on top of a bump.

The little girl's Mum said "they always get bumps, don't they?"

"Especially Bug," I replied. "She's often falling downstairs." I paused. "Apparently!"

"But... but that's awful!" said the shocked woman and walked off.

If I'm not comparing myself favourable to Josef Fritzl then I'm telling a complete stranger that we physically abuse Bug and blame it on 'a fall down stairs.' I had to explain this to Bear when she got home from work. She didn't laugh.

What amazes me is how calm Bug is when she tumbles. Unless she's in lots of pain, or really sleepy, then she'll pick herself off the floor and get on with important Bug things like teaching the cat about hugs. Most of her falls come under two categories:

1: The Austen

She makes a noise like a fainting girl from a Austen adaptation. Her arms will fly up, her dress will billow and she'll make a 'hoooh' noise.

2: Vic and Bob

Other falls remind me of Vic and Bob. She'll come walking towards me, giggle, and fall on her bum. 'Ooooh Dad, I've fallen!'

Often it's a combination of the two. She's multi-talented.

Bye for now.