Sunday, November 29, 2009

Give me the boy at one..

I have found myself wondering about Hitler's mother over the last week as I have witnessed some particularly unsavoury behaviour in my young men. George sits at his highchair ignoring his own Vegemite toast but eating Edgar's while Edgar tries to bat him away (in much the same way Edgar expertly flicks all fruit onto the floor). Edgar reaches over and snatches George's Mega Blox car while George is in the middle of running it backwards and forwards over the lumpy rim of a basket; Edgar is seemingly oblivious to his brother's pained howls. George grabs the back of Edgar's nappy to prevent him from crawling away, Edgar bites George leaving great welts in which one can quite clearly decipher the imprint of each tooth. It goes on.
Whereas, I had a vision of twins as best friends, my boys seem to do little but bully and brawl. 'Share, share,' I call from across the sink as they are pushing and shoving the teddy-on-the-motorbike-toy and they both just peer at me and shake their heads in a very firm 'no no no no no, Mummy' and then give me a look which says Have you tried sharing a toy that's no bigger than your palm? You really want us to share? Buy us a Kiddietips Swingset.
There is no doubt that this is the coalface of human nature, a place where shoves and hits and biffs and bats are unveiled, brutal and deeply heartfelt, but what behaviour is just natural one-year-old behaviour and what is antisocially antisocial? At what point does a Mega Blox car become Poland?
Klara Hitler had six kids and a boorish husband who seemed to fail at whatever he turned his hand to. I don't. But other than an unhealthy fascination with Cowboys and Indians, it's hard to see the traits of the infant Hitler that showed the man he was to come. Does a child have to be killing kittens or hurling pea-hen eggs for a parent to be on red alert?
My anxiety was heightened when the Jesuit motto I had always believed was 'Give me the child at seven and I will give you the man', turned out to be 'Give me a child until he is seven...,' which, as you can appreciate, opens up a whole can of early-learning worms. Okay, sure I knew seven was going to be a big year for us, because let's face it, one slip up there and we end up back at the Bunnings' car park, but I'd planned the year and was going to fill it with positive mentors, educational toys, yoga and preservative-free food. But now I need to usher them through seven years of good behaviour? Good grief that's exhausting; the boys struggle to make it through ten minutes without chewing on the power cords or squabbling over train carriages; 2015 is suddenly looking as far as Australia looked to the spouses of early convicts.
Fortunately, I know plenty of beefy men who wore clips and tutus at kindergarten and plenty of girls in lipstick who fronted up to prep in y-fronts. Let's just hope that brutality goes the way of sexuality and that there's nothing of the smashing-crashing-bashing one-year-old in the man. Or I fear, dear Reader, the shame is not only Klara's.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Back to basics

It may be all the Baby Einstein I've been watching, but I realised tonight that things are getting better. I can now count the scoops of formula straight into the bottles rather than into a little divided formula cup first.
Well, let's put you up for a Nobel Prize, I hear you thinking. This however, is a marked improvement. When I was breastfeeding, I remember watching my mother scoop seven level spoons of formula straight into each bottle and thinking it was all a little too gung ho. What kind of cowboy grandmother are you? I hissed. Lips tight, I curtly suggested that she may prefer to try the special container just in case you lose count. It's easy to do [exclamation mark! exclamation mark! exclamation mark! (keeps threats jolly)].
Of course, I used to count scoops into the divided formula container and forget where I was sometimes around the fourth scoop, sometimes around the sixth, once between the first and second. Getting to seven seemed like a long hard road and too often I'd be pouring the formula back into the tin to start again. And then mucking it up and starting again again. I even counted on my fingers.
Well, tonight I stand before you, a new woman, a new mum. A mum who can count to seven with relish, a mum who can ladle straight into the bottles, a mum who in time, may even come to remember the names of her sons. Both of them.
We can only hope.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

In defence of Baby Einstein

It has come to my attention that there has been much recent criticism of Baby Einstein. For those not in the know, Baby Einstein is a little off-shoot of Disney that sells a number of products including half hour DVDs for babies. These feature lots of beautiful images of water/animals/planets (depending on the theme) and star a few squeaky-clean animal puppets and a few squeaky-clean multi-racial children all going about their business to gloriously tinny classical music. There is also a language option which means that babies can watch the DVD in numerous languages. This means our household now knows that Molen is the Dutch word for windmill.

Last week my sister, (whose children are not television-watchers), forwarded an email by some group called Campaign For a Commercial Free Childhood Reclaiming Childhood from Corporate Marketers. Now there's a snappy title. Anyway, in a coup for CFCFCRCCM (which actually calls itself CCFC), the Walt Disney Company will offer a full refund to anyone who purchased a Baby Einstein DVD in the last five years.

CCFC states:

Our 2006 Federal Trade Commission complaint forced Disney to stop claiming that Baby Einstein videos were educational for infants, but the company made no move to compensate parents who purchased them.
We thought parents deserved better. So, with help from CCFC members like you, we kept the pressure on until Disney agreed to reimburse Baby Einstein customers.
The refund offer is a wonderful victory for families and anyone who cares about children. Recent research shows that screen time is not educational for babies. Now parents who purchased Baby Einstein DVDs, mistakenly believing the videos would make their babies smarter, can recoup their money

My sister asked me whether I was going to claim the refund. CLAIM THE REFUND? Is she kidding? Let it be stated that not only am I NOT going to claim the refund, I've budgeted for a Christmas bonus for the makers of Baby Einstein. I have even considered going one step further and changing Edgar's name to Edgar-Baby and George's to George-Einstein as a token of my on-going commitment to Baby Einstein and their products.

Do I think Baby Einstein is educational? Well it can't not be educational. It's certainly exposing my children to things they haven't seen before (like Dutch windmills) and, given that we never leave the suburb and are unlikely to do so for some time, this has to be advantageous. The fact that they have this exposure in numerous languages is super (although they could do with a few Asian languages as well).

More important than education, however (yes, gasp, you did read that correctly), Baby Einstein has made our evening times workable solo. I can sit my boys in front of the telly for 30 mins -- sometimes longer if I'm desperate -- while I sweep around the house getting their bottles, dummies and sleeping bags ready. I can soothe one child in the cot without having the other wail hysterically in the other room -- setting off his brother -- which used to happen in the deep dark pre-Baby Einstein times.

We use Baby Einstein for relaxation and it's a wonderful indicator that it's actually bed time. As a children's writer, I would probably prefer to read to them. As a mother of twin boys who are everywhere and into everything, I find this nigh impossible. There is substantial time in my children's lives for books (they're at 'library time' as I type) but this does not preclude a nightly DVD.

Have I tried something less "commercial" like Playschool? (I'm sure the Board of the ABC would be thrilled to read that). Yes I have, but Baby Einstein, with its steady flow of images set to muzak captures the attention of my babies for longer. Playschool is wonderful for slightly older children and would probably be fine for mine when their attention is not flagging at the end of the day, but when they're tired, Baby Einstein is just the succour they need.

So, to the makers of Baby Einstein, thank you. Please know that for every critic, there is at least one avid fan.

To the members of CCFC? Thank you, too. Keep up your battle to get Pooh Bear off my nappies and Thomas and Dora off every article of clothing available in Target. I don't want to be paying to advertise those brands. And they're hideous. But please leave Baby Einstein in peace -- if only for the immeasurable peace it's brought this twin mum.

Monday, November 2, 2009

False starts

I understand that the twins don't comprehend that parents need weekends but surely they could try to understand the value of public holidays. Waking at 5.30am on Cup Day is inhumane.