Lifting the lockdown

I admit it. I cracked. I’m not proud of it. I really, really wanted to clean the bathroom…

The girls have been on a bit of a children’s television embargo for the last few weeks and I finally allowed them to watch a couple of episodes of Something Special last week.In my defence, the bathroom needed a jolly good scrub and since the cleaner left (short, boring story) in December dh and I have been a bit rubbish at keeping up with things. He PROMISED me that he would clean it (as part of his ‘I’ll do more cleaning if we don’t get another cleaner’ agreement) and didn’t, so to save the inevitable argument I rolled up my sleeves and did it myself. Don’t worry, it hasn’t been forgotten…

(In case you think we’re a couple of slovenly slatterns, the bathroom gets a wipe over regularly but needed a proper deep clean…)

They have since watched a couple of episodes of Rastamouse (Dh practically cried with laughter at it and has been pottering around the house muttering CRUUUUUCIAL randomly; R just looked baffled by it) and today I finally let them watch two episodes of The Infernal Pig.

They weren’t exactly morning til bedtime telly watchers anyway (I reckon an hour at a time at most, with either dh or I sitting with them – it’s handy for a bit of quiet time in that post-lunch lull), but I have enjoyed the fact that they haven’t been whingeing to watch TV as much recently. R is currently obsessed with painting and would happily do it all day. G lives in G-land anyway and is usually constructing an imaginary world involving a cast of characters, animals and scenarios.

So, I gave in first and the lockdown has been officially lifted. It’s been an interesting experiment and proves that you don’t need to let them watch television. However, a half-hour of their favourite programmes every so often gives us all a well-earned break.

Children’s TV lockdown

We’ve always been quite strict about the type and quantity of television that the girls watch. Although dh and I love watching TV, we’re not the sort of people that switch it on the moment we get up in the morning and leave it on all day. The only time I watch daytime TV is when I’m ill. Frankly, we’ve all got better things to be doing with our time.

R and G didn’t really watch dedicated children’s programmes until they were about 15 months old, and even then it was a few minutes of Teletubbies or In the Night Garden. Even now, I won’t let them watch hours of unscheduled Cbeebies or Nick Jnr. Most of the stuff they watch – Peppa Pig, SpongeBob and Something Special – is generally from Youtube, Iplayer, or downloaded content, modern missies that they are and dh and I normally watch it with them. It’s also in controlled bursts i.e. 5 episodes of The Pig and we do a craft activity; 1 episode of Something Special before tea, etc.

They were both a bit under the weather (again) a couple of weeks ago so I put Cbeebies on. I sat with them and spent much of the time thinking. What’s wrong with (insert name of random presenter here)’s face? Why is that woman so astonishingly perky? What is Nurse Gladys doing with that hedgehog?

We had a meeting with G’s keyworker on Tuesday and she mentioned that G references Peppa Pig in a lot of her imaginative play, along with sealions. When we explained that we went to the Zoo a lot, said keyworker seemed surprised that we allowed the girls to do anything other than watch The Pig. I went into a (rather unnecessary) flap and decided that the girls could go cold turkey on TV for a little while…

…Day 7 of the children’s TV lockdown and neither dh or I have given in yet. We were out last Sunday so day 1 was easy. Days 2 and 3 were nursery days – no TV there. On Day 4 I took the girls to the park and the Maritime Museum in the morning and dh entertained them at home with some painting in the afternoon while I worked. Day 5 – nursery day. Day 6 – took the girls to visit my library and office in the morning and dh took them to the supermarket in the afternoon. We were out and about (admittedly, at the cinema) today.

Which one of us will crack first? Dh is on nights next week so I’ll be up to me to keep them out of the way on their non-nursery days while he sleeps. I’m praying for dry weather so I can take them out.

The girls don’t seem to be missing TV actually. They ask to watch it when they’re tired, but that’s it. I felt rather pleased with myself until we went shopping for a fish tank (they chose the Spongebob one)and swimming costumes (they chose Peppa Pig ones) and I’m willing to bet that G still references The Pig at nursery as well. Sigh.

Stalking Justin

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that the girls love Something Special, so I was extremely excited when I saw that the presenter, Justin Fletcher, would be switching on the Christmas lights at Bluewater last Friday. I mentioned it to dh and he was unsure – would the girls get bored, would they get tired, would they want to go home (projecting, much?) – but I ground him down 😉

The switch-on was scheduled for 5pm so we made our way over to the Christmas Wonderland just beforehand. It was absolute mayhem as you’d expect – buggies and small people everywhere.

An aside. One of my highlights was looking into a pure white (WHITE!)pram and watching a 8(ish) month old hoover up a McDonalds Happy Meal  (chicken nuggets and chips) before my incredulous eyes. It made my Margot antennae twitch, I can tell you…

Anyway, to build up the excitement a band appeared and started warbling Christmas tunes. R tolerated this for a little while, dancing around in dh’s arms before adopting a puzzled expression, looking directly into is eyes and asking in a polite yet firm voice “WHERE’S JUSTIN?”. Dh tried to explain that Justin would be coming on soon. She appeared to be listening, nodded intently, paused for a nanosecond before looking at him again and saying “WHERE IS JUSTIN?”

After what seemed like five years  but in reality was just a few minutes, Justin Fletcher appeared on the stage. At least, I think he did. The stage was a blur in the distance and a small dot wearing a white shirt and black waistcoat was bobbing around on it. It sounded like him anyway.

At this point I forgot my sore throat and started shouting (hoarsely) “IT’S JUSTIN! IT’S JUSTIN! LOOK IT’S JUSTIN!” I may even have jumped up and down with excitement. The last time I got so excited was watching Steps at Wembley Arena during their Steptacular tour in 2000. I almost launched into the OO-A OO-A chant. I was a mere minute away from an OGGY OGGY OGGY moment. I attempted to take a photo and a video but all you can see is a blurry shape bouncing around.

The mere thought being in the presence of Justin was enough and then he started to sing. Oh, it was MARVELLOUS. He did ‘Jump, jive and wail’, ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes’ and ‘Old Macdonald’ before announcing that he was going to do a song that we’d all know – cue a couple of thousand grown men and women tunelessly singing the Something Special theme tune while their offspring gazed at them with ‘They’ve finally lost it’ expressions on their faces.

I’d like to be able to tell you more but at this point G decided she’d had enough and asked (politely) to go home because she was tired. This meant that we missed the big switch-on but to be honest I’m not sure that my throat could have stood any more excitement.

My friends, for a moment we were truly in the presence of greatness. Now. When is Justin touring again….?

Peppa Pig – more addictive than Crack*

The girls have replaced their Something Special addiction with the adventures of the cartoon pig and her family and friends. They will happily watch hours of Peppa Pig (if allowed to) and howl with anguish if they are forced to eat food, play with toys or do anything that doesn’t involve the bloody pig. They find the opening sequence (‘I’m Peppa Pig SNORT…’) side-clutchingly hilarious. Every. Single. Time. Our lives are now filled with re-enactments of Peppa Pig stories, dissections of characters over dinner and all manner of Peppa Pig paraphernalia fills our house. (Wouldn’t you love to be the creator of Peppa Pig? They must be worth an absolute fortune).

After Teletubbies (11-18 months, In the Night Garden (18-25 months) and Something Special (26-34 months), it was inevitable that the girls would find a new obsession. It could be worse. It could be Dora the Explorer.

I’m rather hoping that the next obsession will be Charlie and Lola. Whenever we read one of the stories G spends the next three days announcing that whatever random object she’s holding at the time is ‘Actually my favourite dog/cat/piece of chalk/sticker/toilet seat/t-shirt’. Also, I’m rather fond of the animation, the merchandise and of poor long-suffering Charlie.

For now, however, I’ll immerse myself in snorts and bossy retorts.

*Not a Daily Mail headline.

Something Special…or something else?

Hello hello

How are you?

Hello hello

It’s good to see you…

If you’re a parent you’ll know exactly which children’s television programme I’m talking about. For the uninitiated, it’s this. It’s aimed at children with disabilities aged 4-7 years and teaches Makaton through simple scenarios and events.

R and G are completely and utterly obsessed with this programme, as are most children of their age, regardless of disability. It’s actually one of the very few programmes that the girls will sit and watch. I’d better point out that the girls have very limited exposure to television and only watch a few hours a week. I’m not comfortable with having the TV on in the background 24/7. We V+ the two ‘Out and About’ series when they were shown on CBeebies recently and the girls watch them on an endless loop. Dh and I know the programmes so well now that we can hold (very) basic conversations in sign language, as long as they involve animals and cake.

The programme, or rather the presenter Justin Fletcher and his alter-ego Mr Tumble (I once jokingly said that I wondered why they looked so similar and someone took great pains to explain very carefully to me that they are in fact the same person…) are the subject of intense debate among parents. ‘He’s so pure!’ cried one when we discussed the programme. ‘He give me the creeps’ said another.  As for my friend that would quite like to do VERY bad things to him (thus relieving him of his perceived purity), the least said the better! I have to say that while he seems like a nice guy, Justin doesn’t exactly float my boat. Now, the teacher in the episode where Justin goes on a bike ride and Mr Tumble delivers the post…well, I’ll leave that sentence right there!

I think it’s a lovely programme that teaches children something interesting and worthwhile (watching R and G copy the signs is very sweet) and doesn’t stigmatise disability. Each programme features two or three children with varying degrees of disability and at no point are their ‘problems’ discussed. Children take them at face value. I wonder how many parents watching the programme (apart from me) sit and try and work out what disability each child has. I know I do. I should probably feel quite ashamed of the fact that I can’t just watch Poppy or Felix or Entesar (can you tell we’ve watched them A LOT?) without wondering what their story is but with my parent head on I become curious.

Although I like SS I’m now trying to wean the girls off it and onto other programmes. There’s a limit to the amount of times I can watch the episode with Aunt Sukey’s spotty dog and I’ve very nearly reached it. They don’t mind an episode or two of Bob the Builder or Fireman Sam. I’ve banned them from watching the new version of Postman Pat (it’s blasphemous) ‘Special Delivery’ and Waybuloo is just weird. As for Penelope K by the Way, I wish there were still convict ships to Australia so that she could be returned from whence she came. We always end up watching Something Special again.

Goodbye goodbye

It’s time to run

Goodbye goodbye

I hope you had good fun

I said goodbye

I’m happy that you came

I said goodbye

Please come back

Again.