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Posted by clevek, 20/02/2013, 06:50 AM
Singing. From their very first day, we sing to our kids. Soothing lullabies to calm a restless baby (or agitated mums and dads). As our babies grow into toddlers, soothing songs remain part of the bedtime ritual.
But it's just hit home to me that the singing ends.
The Complicated One (now in Year 1 at school) no longer wants me to sing to him at night. The Big Fella (just started Kindy) still lets me occasionally, but even he's starting to move on.
It seems to happen around 5 or 6 years, but at some point your kids just don't want you singing anymore. Perhaps they think it's only for babies, or it's not cool. They don't say, and I don't ask.
Now that both our boys are at school, change seems to be speeding up. Maturity, exposure to a wider group of friends drawn from more diverse backgrounds, or just the acceleration of peer pressure, which will only intensify as they rocket towards and into the teen years.
So before I forget, I want to write down the names of the songs we sang to our boys.
Admittedly, it's a wonky collection of tunes, sung with a wonky voice, but I don't care! It's my 6-song repertoire of suitable bedtime songs where I know all the words:
Some of them are songs my mum sang to me, like The Seekers' Morningtown Ride
"Train whistle blowing, makes a sleepy noise,
Underneath the blankets, go all the girls and boys..."
If there's a pop song in the last 40 years with better lyrics or a sleepier melody for little kids, I'd like to know.
Perhaps, I hear you suggest, another folk song from the 1960s? Like Peter, Paul and Mary's Puff the Magic Dragon
. It's another great bedtime song, but for years we didn't sing the next to last verse, because it's too sad...
"Dragons live forever, but not so little boys Two Little Boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys..."
by Rolf Harris is another bedtime favourite with a happy/sad final verse that we edited out for years. But sometimes, they'd ask for it, for their own private reasons...
"Long years had passed, war came so fast,
Bravely they marched away.
Cannon roared loud, and in the mad crowd,
Wounded and dying lay..."
Like a good showman I like to leave 'em dancing, and nothing fills me with more joy than Abba. The Complicated One always enjoyed Thankyou for the Music
, which sounds OK even with my two-note singing. It perfectly captures the balance between light and dark in Abba's music.
An alternative show-stopper is Dancing Queen
. "Friday night and the lights are low, looking out for the place to go..." is a familiar and much-loved refrain for my generation.
But my sneaky favourite is Looking for an Echo, as sung by Ole'55 on Countdown in 1976, to me as an impressionable pre-teen...
"At daydream junior high school we used to harmonise,
Me and Frankie and Jimmy and some Italian guy.
We were singing oldies but they were newies then,
And today when I play my old 45s I remember when..."
Now that I am an old music nerd, I've tracked down the original version first performed by Kenny Vance in 1975 - and it's even better! Kenny Vance
first knew fame in the 1960s with Jay and the Americans (their big hit, This Magic Moment
, features in a current TV commercial for a certain gambling company). Vance turns 70 this year, still performs regularly in New York and New Jersey, and still sings this beautifully as a finale to his shows... Looking for an Echo - Kenny Vance and the Planetones
Looking for an Echo best sums up the beauty and melancholy I feel as I sing to our boys. Knowing they can't stay little forever, but not wanting to let go to some of the special times that may never come again...
"We've sung a lot of changes since 1955 And a lot of bad arrangements we've tried to harmonize. Now we've turned into oldies, but we were newies then, And today when I play my old 45's, I remember when... We were looking for an echo, an answer to our sound. A place to be in harmony, A place we almost found."
Read more at http://clevek.blogspot.com.au/
Posted by clevek, 04/02/2013, 06:47 PM
The Big Fella went to school today without a backward look. He waved happily to us, and literally skipped into the classroom.
What a contrast to The Complicated One's first day of school, when he retired to bed in his school uniform just before we left the house, and literally had to be dragged crying into the classroom on days 1 and 2.
They're different cats, that's for sure. The Big Fella is sure of himself, and goes with the flow. He'll talk to anyone, and nothing much bothers him.
The Complicated One is less sure of himself, thinks of all the alternatives, worries about which is the right choice, and second guesses himself afterwards. He'll only talk to you if he likes you, and pretty much everything bothers him (I guess I'm exaggerating a bit!).
The Big Fella has a good friend from his child care centre starting kindy at the same time. They're not in the same class, but having a familiar face in the playground on day 1 must make a huge difference.
Plus he's been to the school every day for a year, dropping off or picking up his brother, so it's already a familiar place. Add a different personality, and you can see why The Big Fella is recipe for success.
We suspect it won't all be smooth sailing. He's amongst the youngest in his class. And writing and craft type activities don't yet appear to be his forte. He's more of a running around kicking a soccer ball kinda guy.
In a few weeks he may well decide school is boring, and declare he's had enough. He's done that sort of thing before.
But just as likely he'll find some way to make school fun and interesting, perhaps by focussing on activities outside the classroom.
Who knows what hidden talents school will reveal? It may be oral presentations (try shutting him up!). It may be acting (he's already a clown). It may even be numbers (he's certainly more interested in adding up that recognising letters).
Whatever happens, The Big Fella and The Complicated One will make an interesting pair as they travel through their school years together.
Sometimes I imagine it will be like the Reacher brothers from the Lee Child novels. Jack, the novels' hero, is the younger but physically bigger and tougher brother of the more thoughtful Joe.
Jack used to beat up the kids who gave Joe trouble in school. Jack says "... we had different brains. Deep down, he was a cerebral guy. Kind of pure. Naive, even. He never thought dirty. Everything was a game of chess with him.”
Not that The Big Fella has ever swung a punch. He's not yet even 5 years old - and quite gentle, for a big unit. But maybe he'll be looking out for his big brother, and vice versa.
Let's hope he's as cool and relaxed on the last day of school, as his first.
Posted by clevek, 20/12/2012, 05:11 PM
“I want the top bunk!” yells The Complicated One (age 6.5 years) on the first day of our short pre-Christmas break by the beach.
“No, I want the top bunk,” counters The Big Fella (age 4.5).
After much tedious negotiation, everyone agrees that:
a) the eldest child will scale the dizzy heights of the top bunk (since he’s the best climber) and
b) the least eldest child will lie safely nearest the ground (since he dropped like a sack of potatoes from some monkey bars the previous weekend, landing on his backside with a shuddering thud that demanded chiropractic care).
Fast forward six hours to bedtime .... “I feel sick and dizzy up here. I might fall.”
The Complicated One has lost his nerve.
“Would you like to come down?”
Sad little nod of head in reply.
Further negotiations are required about who should have the bottom bunk. The Complicated One reckons he should sleep on the bottom while The Big Fella moves to the less salubrious adjacent single bed. The Big Fella does not agree.
Eventually peace is restored when the least eldest brother agrees to make way for the eldest brother in the bottom bunk.
Five minutes later….thud.
It sounds suspiciously like The Big Fella falling like a sack of wet cement out of a tree.
Which sound suspiciously like The Complicated One stubbing his toe.
Which brother is it?
Of course, the eldest brother has fallen out of the bottom bunk, and managed to badly (he claims) hurt his knee in the drop (all 45 centimetres of it).
Lucky he wasn’t in the top bunk, or he’d be in hospital. At least his little brother only needs chiropractic care.
Read more random moments from a beach holiday at http://clevek.blogspot.com.au/
Posted by clevek, 31/08/2012, 03:28 PM
“J always picks The Complicated One. It’s not fair. She wants to marry him, but I asked him first!”
Of course L didn’t say ‘The Complicated One’, or even TCO – only I call him that. But her meaning was crystal clear – the little boy she’d decided to marry in the first week of kindy was now devoted to another girl.
Fast and furious friendships seem typical of these heady first weeks and months of your first year at school. It’s a bit like speed dating, but with the cheap white wine replaced by juice poppers.
L is right – she definitely had first dibs on him. I clearly remember TCO and L holding hands as they walked back to class from morning assembly in the second week of school. I was so relieved he’d made a friend, after his first few days had been truly horrendous.
(On days 1 and 2 we physically had to push him through the classroom door, crying, and pull it tight behind us to prevent his escape. We then walked quickly away to the fading sound of his screams. First day of school blues.)
Yet it was only a few days until he made friends with L and things began to settle down, and only another few weeks until he really clicked with J. They are now fast friends, each waiting until the other arrives in the morning so they can play handball together.
In 20 years, if they decide to marry, I wonder if J or L will still have to promise to ‘submit to him’, as is currently the rage in some ‘forward-thinking’ Anglican Church parishes. I hope not.
I certainly know the church would not approve of our boys current plans to marry another boy!
The Complicated One and The Big Fella both asked Sherrie the other day if they could marry a boy instead of a girl.
“Not at the moment, but it’s currently under investigation,” she replied.
TBF wants to marry his male cousin J. TCO thinks it might be best marry a boy as well but is leaving his options open (a wise move, given how keen those little girls J and L are to marry him).
Who knows how or why people will be getting hitched in 20 or 30 years? The smart money is probably on the boys, not the Anglicans.
Posted by clevek, 08/08/2012, 05:44 PM
"Can we look at the clothes section after we look at the toys?" Not words often uttered by 4-year-old boys. Unless they're The Big Fella continuing his quest to look fashionably cool this spring.
He certainly dressed to impress for our first family visit to the circus last weekend. His Angry Birds t-shirt and scruffy blue jeans blended nicely with the circus roadies.
It was an old school circus with lions, monkeys, ponies, clowns and trapeze artists. Admittedly the lions looked rather tired, the monkeys riding the ponies looked alarmingly manic, and the clowns made rather tired risque jokes. But the trapeze artists were rather good, and the atmosphere was quite jolly.
At 4 and 6, the boys were just the right age to be delighted by all the silliness and the pantomime atmosphere. Particularly the physical humour of the clowns. The look on their faces was priceless.
I know it's probably quite politically incorrect to like a circus. And for those like me with allergies, there was dust. And animal hair. In an enclosed space.
But if take your best antihistamine and adjust your other medication before heading off, adults may have an acceptable time as well.
"What was your favourite part of the circus?" we asked the boys afterwards.
"The clowns," replied The Complicated One.
"The part where they bumped each other off the table, or the bit where they crashed the clown car?"
"No, the clowns we put the balls in. I love my pig." (He won a stuffed pig, which is rather cute.)
Seems they liked the sideshow alley at the entrance more than what happened under the big top.
So perhaps it's an old-fashioned carnival with sideshow alley they prefer, more than an old-fashioned circus.
Provided The Big Fella can dress to impress, he probably doesn't care where he goes - as long as he's looking goooood!
Posted by clevek, 21/05/2012, 02:16 PM
It's hard to capture in words what the death of Robin Gibb means to me. But look at this simple photo of Barry, Robin and Maurice, before they were the Bee Gees...
(Scroll down the article to find the black-and-white photo where Barry looks about 12 or 13 years old, Robin (centre) and Maurice about 9 or 10. The caption says the photo was taken during their years in Brisbane, which was between about 1958 and 1966.)
With their white Chesty Bonds-style t-shirts and shorts, and big smiles on their wide open faces - it's a picture of innocence, optimism, and brotherly love.
It's also a photo that breaks my heart - as a parent of two young boys who wonders what life will bring for them.
This black-and-white image of the Gibb brothers seems to capture all that was good and sweet and innocent about 1960s Australia. The tennis whites a reminder of how our champions ruled the tennis world. The guitar that hints at artistic talent. Their faces suffused with a healthy youthful radiance that mirrors how we saw ourselves - a young nation, full of talent and dreams, starting to punch above our weight on the world stage.
It's a photo of three brothers whose futures were inextricably linked, and whose lives would unfold with great highs but also many lows.
Only a few years later, as the Bee Gees the brothers would have their first Australian number 1 (Spicks and Specks), and a few years later their first worldwide number 1 (Massachusetts). After a string of hits in the late 1960s and early 1970s featuring the ethereal voice of Robin, in the late 1970s they would define the disco era, with Barry's falsetto their signature sound. They would go on to become Britain's most successful songwriting partnership after Lennon-McCartney.
The lows would come too, with their early split as a band before Robin reunited with his brothers. The periods of drug and alcohol abuse that seemingly came hand-in-hand with their massive chart success. The death of their younger brother Andy at just 30, after years of cocaine use. Later, the deaths of Maurice at 54 and Robin at 62 - both premature by contemporary longevity standards.
And today I think of Barry, now 66, the sole survivor of his three younger brothers. How must he feel? Watch him as an older man sing Immortality, which he dedicates to his brothers. Then look back at this photo of them as boys.
That innocent photo of three boys on the verge of greatness makes me wonder about how life will unfold for our two sons.
I don't wish worldwide fame on them, or anyone else. But you can't help wonder will they be happy? Will they find fulfillment? Will they avoid the pitfalls of drug or alcohol abuse that claims the lives of not just the famous, but ordinary people too - as alcohol helped claim the life of my own father at only 52.
There are plenty of self-help books and gurus to help us understand how to live well. I just hope and wish The Big Fella and The Complicated One may live happy and healthy lives, in times of peace and equality. I hope it's not too much to ask.
It's not fashionable to say so, but the Bee Gees' music has brought me much happiness over many years. Listen to First of May and try not to cry about the loss of childhood innocence. If you're a teenager in love, try How Deep is Your Love. And try not to sway along to Nights on Broadway - it's impossible.
Vale Robin Gibb, brother to Barry, Maurice and Andy.
Posted by clevek, 14/05/2012, 07:36 AM
The Big Fella threatened to assassinate his mum on the eve of Mother's Day. Having just turned 4, we hope he was just asserting his newfound sense of independence, rather than trying to recreate the St Valentine's Day massacre.
"What are you doing?" mum asked as he knelt in front of his toybox, throwing its contents on the floor all around him.
"I'm looking for my gun to shoot you."
The Big Fella was upset about an earlier bathtime incident, where he thought his older brother, The Complicated One, had been unjustly dealt with by his parents, in particular his mother.
So he was springing to his brother's defence and threatening to exact revenge on mum.
Several minutes later he emerged from his room. Fortunately, he was gunless.
"I'll shoot you in the morning," he declared, as he stomped off to his bath.
The next day, as the boys were handing over their Mother's Day presents, The Big Fella remembered his threat of the night before.
"I'm not going to shoot you - because it's Mother's Day," he declared.
The lack of a suitable weapon had averted a Mother's Day massacre in suburban Sydney. Were that Al Capone and Bugs Moran had experienced a similar lack of guns in Chicago, a sad chapter in America history may have gone unwritten.
There's a lesson there for all of us. Disarm The Big Fella, and we can all rest easy at night.
Posted by clevek, 03/04/2012, 12:37 PM
"What are we doing for Earth Hour!" screamed The Complicated One. It was the Saturday morning of Earth Hour. Clearly he'd been dreaming about it, and plainly he'd decided our response was inadequate.
Last week his science teacher had asked everyone in class what they were doing for Earth Hour.
She didn't seem impressed by The Complicated One's answer that his parents would be going to bed early and hoping for their annual night of uninterrupted sleep.
Since when do kindy kids have science teachers? Next he'll want a financial adviser for his Dollarmites account.
Clearly he'd gone to bed worried that his parents weren't taking Earth Hour seriously, and had nightmares about our inadequate response.
So he was demanding a family conference. Involving both his parents. At 5.30 in the morning.
You'll recall that Earth Hour coincided with the end of daylight savings. So as an added bonus, during our family conference we all got to enjoy the maximum period of darkness remaining until dawn - over 1 and a half hours to be fairly precise.
Earlier in the week I had laid out what I thought was a pretty comprehensive household response...
1. We'd recently upgraded from our power-hungry plasma TV to a more energy efficient LED LCD model (I haven't really thrown the plasma away - just relocated it, but he doesn't need to know.)
2. Mummy and daddy would turn off all the lights in the house and watch the LED LCD TV in darkness (we do this every night, but he doesn't need to know).
3. We'd unplug the electric toothbrushes and the kettle.
4. I'd needlessly capitalise Earth Hour in my blog.
5. We could also unplug his nightlight. Somehow he was still unimpressed.
In the end he settled for the toothbrushes and kettle.
But he thought his nightlight should remain on.
Posted by clevek, 14/03/2012, 11:35 AM
The Big Fella is enjoying being top dog. For 2 days each week, he sets the pace. It's just me and him. He gets to decide which park to visit, which library books we borrow, and what games we play. He even gets first bid on what we're eating for dinner.
Of course it all ends at 3pm when school finishes and we collect The Complicated One. Then it's back to normal. Or abnormal.
And now The Big Fella has tasted the high life as top dog, things can get a bit testy at the pound when the old dog returns.
There is much pawing at the ground and gnashing of teeth as he asserts his few-found authority. They disagree over anything and everything - who gets to play with what toy, whose toy is it anyhow, how to play a game, whose game is it anyway, what we're having for dinner, and whether the sky is blue or green.
Being two months shy of his 4th birthday and in the 'big' room at child care, The Big Fella thinks he's king of the world.
Until The Complicated One reminds him that's he's nearly six and is going to school. At which point The Big Fella declares, "Well, I'm going to school next year!"
Which may or may not be the case, depending on how soon The Big Fella can count past 14 and write more than the first two letters of his name. Even if he can't, he has the personality to bluff his way through kindergarten even now.
Chances are he'll find the whole experience less traumatic than his big brother, who after 6 weeks of Kindergarten is wracked with existential angst when he can't read a sentence that would trouble most Year 2 kids.
The Big Fella already dresses each morning like he's off to a Year 12 school formal. He takes great care to match one of Spiderman t-shirts with the right pair of shorts, choose socks that are cool ("are these socks cool?" he asks most mornings), and adjust the tilt of his cap (the bucket had was long ago ditched as uncool).
The Complicated One couldn't care less what he wears. He has too much on his mind as it is, what with re-sorting his Moshi Monsters collection and deciding on the pros and cons of different approaches to securing world peace.
A mum whispered to me during school assembly this morning that her son told her that everyone in his class wants to be like The Complicated One. No, not complicated - but attentive in class, considerate and respectful of others, and generally helpful and well-behaved.
My heart filled to bursting.
As for The Big Fella, he's busy mixing poison in the cubby house. "Don't come in, I'm mixing poison" he yelled at me yesterday afternoon.
Let's just hope he's not planning to poison the top dog.
Read more at http://clevek.blogspot.com.au/
Posted by clevek, 28/02/2012, 02:31 PM
Week 5 of school and the first day blues are fading. We’re not out of the woods yet, but the path is smoother and the undergrowth is thinner and hides fewer dangers.
Much to our relief The Complicated One is making friends quickly. Last week after morning assembly I watched him walk back to class holding hands with a little girl (who he later told us he is going to marry!). They were the only ones holding hands - it looked terribly sweet.
He even quietly admits to enjoying many parts of the school day.
He loves doing little jobs - delivering the lunch orders from the canteen, couriering the school banking envelopes from classroom to front office, being bag police.
He’s fully into his readers, and taking up the challenge of reading a new book each night. He loves us filling out the diary that records what he’s read and what he liked about it, and getting a sticker.
There are a few kids who like him are already reading. But everyone’s different. While some kids are struggling with the curriculum, he’s still struggling with some of the social aspects.
He reckons recess and lunch are too long. Which we guess is related to the friends situation, which while much improved is still a source of some agitation for him.
Waiting in the playground for the music that signals morning assembly, he still won’t leave my lap, even though we’re often surrounded by a group of kids asking him to play.
Deep down we know that of course he’ll soon be running off without a backwards look. But we also know that he’s always taken longer than most to settle into new social situations.
It’s a matter of being patient. We’re just so relieved he’s not still crying himself to sleep, and that most mornings we can trundle off to school with little or no complaint.
Doesn’t mean he’s enjoying it, or it’s easy - but he’s coping.
We were warned by friends with kids who recently went through Kindy of the terrible rages that can occur after school. Tired and stressed kids who’ve been holding it together all day suddenly let themselves explode in the safety of their home.
We’ve had a few of these episodes. Often it’s a brief bit of yelling and crying over a small thing that he’d normally take in his stride.
So most afternoons it’s like walking on eggshells - don’t upset the crazy Kindy pupil in the corner!
It's just a matter of adjusting my medication and taking it in our stride.
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