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“and don’t be talking to any strangers”, my mum would regularly say to me growing up, “Yes I know” I would yell back at her, exhausted at forever being told the same thing.

Yet here I am today, repeating the same to my kids – the single difference being they aren’t leaving the house when I tell them!   This stranger is right here in our house, more so in our children’s bedrooms – in the form of the internet and social media platforms.

As a parent it’s difficult to know if all the nagging (my kid’s words) and repetitive talks on internet safety ever really sink in.  Groans of “yes we know Mum”, “you don’t need to keep telling me” are often heard, when I am, as the kids say, on one!

Would they tell us if anything untoward happened?  It’s a worry.  We later found out, that yes, our eldest did tell us. While there are positives to social media, there are also negatives.   When speaking to my kids about the dangers, I don’t sugar coat any of it.  Awareness is better than ignorance.

Knowing the majority of their online chats will be with their friends, there is always the chance that someone, somewhere might try and creep in un-invited.  Explaining to my younger ones that 11-year old Jacqueline Wilson fan, Jane, might actually be a 40-year-old paedophile John, can be difficult for them to grasp at.   The difficulty being they cannot see this person so generally will believe what is being fed to them (unlike the stranger on the street, where they can physically see).

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Any time there is a story about the perils of the internet, such as the scenario above,  I show mine.  It doesn’t give them sleepless nights; it just gives an insight of the real, potential dangers out there.

Unable to have eyes and ears on the kids 24/7 any prolonged monitoring of their online activity is just not possible.   As parents we are bringing our kids up to be both sensible and savvy. To know right from wrong and to notice when online, the difference between safe and worrying.

A few rules that work for us as a family are below, and with any rule I always explain my reasoning behind it, that way it’s not open to misinterpretation!

  1. 100% not allowed too give out any personal details, i.e. name, age, where they live.

The kids groan when I reiterate this to them from time to time.  The replies of  “we know, you don’t have to keep telling us”,  are often heard.  But they have to be mindful of unwittingly slipping up.  Who’s to say after a long comfortable conversation they haven’t, unwittingly just given out some personal detail.  It pays to always be that little bit on guard.

  1. You don’t accept friend request from complete strangers.

If a person approached you on the street and asked to be your friend, would you accept it? No. So why would you accept a friendship from someone you don’t know online & who doesn’t know you, especially one with no mutual friends!

  1. If it doesn’t look right or you are not sure, don’t click on it.

Like an email that appears to be legit but contains a link in it.   Or any pop ups or ‘click here to win’ boxes.  Clicking on these can lead to unwanted viruses or worse.

  1. Bullying

Reminding the kids if they feel this is happening to them, let us know. Also, enforcing we don’t expect them to participate or become involved in any form of bullying online.  Once its said and sent it cannot be undone, even with good intentions some message can be misconstrued.

When it happened to us

When I mentioned to Ciara I was thinking of writing this post, she was like “Mum, what’s the point of writing about Internet safety, everybody knows the dangers”.

Rewind to the midpoint of 2015 when Ciara, then 15, received a notification showing she and a couple of friends had been tagged in a post on FB.

When she viewed the post, she was shocked to see a photo of her Christmas presents (along with around 8 other various photos from her account) had been posted, with a piece underneath telling her what he would like to do to her, sexually.

This post, was public on her wall for all to see.    This was only half of it, there were 8 more photos.  She chose not to read further and immediately blocked him.  Fortunately, she screenshot the posting which proved invaluable as he later removed the post from her wall.

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The ‘offender’ in this case was a lad at her school, in the year above. She knew him, but he wasn’t someone she spoke to or spent any time with.

Shaken and troubled by this, she spoke to her Head of Year at school about it.   In turn, the school liaised with me and informed the police

Her friends, who had also been tagged in this post, were less willing to discuss it with anyone.   They didn’t want to report it.  One friend didn’t see it as any big deal, while the other did not want her mum to know or have her phone taken from her.

Undeterred, Ciara was happy to take it further and speak to the police.  She felt what he had done was wrong, and she wanted him, in her words ‘told off’.

She was also concerned about how it might have been perceived by anyone who may have seen the post when it was live.  They might, wrongly assume that she was in some sort of relationship with this boy, and was ok with this type of sexualised messaging!

With the police on board and dealing with the lad in question, Ciara carried on as normal.  However, a little while later, he sent Ciara a photo on FB.

Again, it was posted publicly on her FB wall and was an image of his erect penis along with some scribblings on what he would like to do to her.

Shaken, she again screenshot it.  Like before, he took the image down some 30 minutes later

She reported it accordingly, and this time was invited down to the police station to make a -statement.  She spent around 30 minutes in a room describing in detail, to a male police officer, the sequence of events and a description of what the photo showed.

I for one, at that age would have found that to be an excurationally embarrassing situation, if not an incredibly scary thing to do.  She handled it with great maturity, and I was so proud of her.

She later heard, when interviewed, he denied the charge but on further pressing admitted he had sent the image.

He was given a conditional caution and to undergo a process of Restorative Justice:

“restorative justice whereby the system of criminal justice which focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large”

A youth intervention officer was assigned to Ciara.  She was there as a mediator, giving Ciara the opportunity to talk about how she felt, how it made her feel and what outcome she would like to see happen.  In this case, she replied she simply wanted him to acknowledge he had done wrong and be punished.

One of the biggest things Ciara struggled with was why he had done it, and more importantly why her?  This was a question she put to him, he was unable to answer it.

These meetings proved to be a great help to Ciara, keeping her up to date on how things were progressing.  It was something she felt was important to her.   I often wonder how she would have felt if there had been no such intervention.

It was suggested she write a letter to him, whereby she could ask any questions she would like answered.   Then if agreeable to both parties, they could be brought together for a meeting where she would have the opportunity to speak to him about why/what he did.

She agreed and wrote a letter.  In turn, he responded and the YIO duly brought it around.  Feeling, nervous Ciara read it.  In it, he said he didn’t really know why he had done what he had, but he was willing to meet with her too discuss.

Unfortunately, a couple of days before their scheduled meeting, he again sent an inappropriate picture, this time to a different girl.

Consequently, the meeting was cancelled.  Ciara was not interested in meeting with him anymore.  She was shocked, and said it was like re-living the whole experience again.  She could not believe, after all his weeks of ‘therapy’ he was still acting in this manner, with no show of regret and willingness to stop.

Throughout all this, she still had to see this lad every day in school.  She spent her days, always mindful that she could at any time bump into him.  It was a situation that made her uneasy for a number of months.

Fortunately, he is no longer in school and Ciara is able to continue her education without feeling nervous about seeing him.

As a mother, I found it incredibly difficult, especially at the meetings whereby he would be discussed.  I struggled with how he could, after being involved with the police, go on to repeat the same offence.  I imagined being his mother, and what I would do if it was one of my children.  But like all situations, its easy to say and much harder to do.  Hopefully, with all the best will in the world I will never have to know.

To date, Ciara has never heard anything more from him.  I could not be any more proud of Ciara than I am.  Throughout this difficult period, she handled it with a level of maturity beyond her years and was completely non- judgemental.

So in fact, by continuing to parent our kids the best way we can, we must also look on the plus side of the internet. It brings a lot of positives: endless information, possibilities and opportunities for us all, blogging being one major one!

And a favourite of mine, connecting us to loved ones far and wide, bringing the ones we love and know into our living rooms.

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Was that really me? One thing I never envisaged when I became my mum a mum 16 years ago was the sudden loss of all common sense & rational thinking.

As soon as Ciara was placed into my arms, I literally became a woman, who slept every night, badly, anxious with one ear open, listening for any sudden change in breathing.  I would regularly get up and check she was still breathing, and if I wasn’t sure I would poke her, instantly regretting it when she cried; only to repeat it all again later.

Looking back I can see how the phrase ‘helicopter parenting’ was coined, that was me morning, noon and night, unable to let go, always hovering just in case.

Every rash had me carrying out the ‘glass test’ never quite sure if it actually disappeared or not, so to be sure would head off to the Doctors.  It was no different if she coughed, sneezed, had a cold that seemed prolonged, it would all have me in a state of fearing it was something more sinister. (see NEUROTIC).

Everything had to be right.  I lived by the book of new motherhood, following the reams of goals, tips, checklists mainly focussing on the ‘must not do’ list such as; never re-heating bottles (especially in the microwave), never giving her dummy back without first sterilising it, never weaning before 4 months…and so on.

That was me; first time neurotic mummy wasting endless hours sterilising dummies, any toys that had hit the ground and the like, gasping in horror if another mum suggested I cut corners, fearing I would somehow, damage her in the process, all coupled with my parents telling me the stories of their survival as babies with no parenting books or sterilising kits!!  (See BINNED THE BOOK, TOOK PARENTS ADVICE with second child).

However, visits to the Doctors surgery were regular.  The routine baby checks were my favourite.  It gave me a chance to ‘show her off’ and swell with pride at her development and seeing my shiny red book fill up nicely.

All other questions such as,  is she talking – err yeah of course, can she count from 1-10 not quite but we are working on it, is she toilet trained, were plentiful… hang on, sorry scrap that bit, those were the Nursery Gate questions, wrong story!

I KNOW HOW THIS SOUNDS BUT….

On one routine visit, my Doctor asked me how much Ciara weighed at birth; it would be worth noting I was shite at maths (see NEVER LISTENED AT SCHOOL).

I proudly informed him she had weighed 350kg.  Waiting for the unexpected laughter to die down,  he composed himself before asking if I was sure, feeling the pressure, as clearly this figure was wrong, I hastily changed it to 35kg,

“whaaa…t why you laughing” I asked, puzzled.  Showing a clear lack of any understanding surrounding weights,  especially kilo’s, he suggested maybe it was 3.5kg, I went with that, after all he was the Doctor he understood kilos better than I did.

It wasn’t until I recited this account later to my brother, it become apparent what had been funny, I had given the weight off something more in line with a baby elephant! (see SECOND BABY).

IT GETS WORSE

I am fully aware of how this might look, and the following just adds to the list of ‘how stupid could someone be’ but that was me, first time mum and all that, the kind of mum who had to have everything right for my first, along with buying anything gadget based.

I remember buying a Motion Swing that would rock baby gently, saving on any un-needed arm ache and time.  Walking through town with box in tow and his nibs moaning about the price, I was delighted when a woman approached us to champion how good the swings were, apparently brilliant!

Feeling smug and repeating this to his nibs several times over, the smug table turned the day we put her in it, she hated it, cried solidly.

Incidentally the swing ended up in the loft along with all the other waste of time purchases & parenting manuals, along with his nibs muttering “told you it was a waste of money”.

“No Doctor, you don’t understand she isn’t like any other baby” I would tell him as I graced his room once again with Ciara sneezing, “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t important” blah blah blah.

Imagine my horror, when, again, having taken leave of all normal senses,  I was laying with Ciara one morning, when after feeding her, I noticed she started rolling her eyes.

Only slightly at first, but then moving on to real back of the head rolling.  Watching these actions panicked me, trying to reset her eyes to the front position and their clear lack of adjusting back, I let out a mighty roar to his nibs, “quick, come here, there’s something wrong with Ciara”.

“What you on, she was perfectly fine earlier”, he said

“Well she’s not now, I think she might be blind”, mumbling something along the lines of ridiculous and stupid, I carried on, undeterred “seriously, she is rolling her eyes, it’s not right, I need to ring the Doctors”

Pressing redial calling the surgery, I was asked by the Doctors bouncer for my knicker size, what I had for breakfast, is it life threatening blah, blah, blah.

I blurted out my child was blind, “ok what makes you think that”, “well she’s rolling her eyes back in her head and they aren’t refocusing”, so with a reassuring, “ooh I’ve never heard of that before you best bring her in…”.

Throwing her in the car, not literally for any anti- throwing kid’s campaigners out there, we raced off in the mumobile, rubber screeching to the Doctors.  Rushing in I couldn’t have given a stuff that I still had my slippers on, this was urgent, pretending not to notice anyone in the packed waiting room I hoped we wouldn’t be waiting long.

The wait seemed long and all scenarios were playing through my mind, what type of dog we would get, were there any braille classes locally..!

The crackle of the speaker came on,  holding my breath I heard “Sharon, Room No. 4 please”, detecting a hint of ‘what now’ in his tone, I carried on regardless.  It seemed we were on first name terms, I liked the personal touch!

“She’s blind” I announced opening the door and walking in.  “Take a seat Sharon”, sitting down I braced myself as he took her and asked “what makes you think she’s possibly blind”, possibly!

Are you kidding, she’s rolling her eyes right into the back of head so much so I expect her to start chanting lines from the exorcist, her iris literally disappears!  That’s why I think she’s blind.

“Ah right, ok I’ll have a look”.  Turning his back slightly, l sat worrying he was shielding me from some impending doom, rehearsing how he was going to break the news to me.

After what seemed like a very long time, probably one minute in real time, he turned to me and said, “Sharon, have you ever thought she might have wind”?

“Wind”, I said, no I hadn’t, apparently according to him it was a common fact that some babies rolled their eyes when they had wind, well that was a first for me and something I had not read in any of my shit mummy manuals.

Looking back I have great admiration for that Doctor, he always saw me and never mocked, well not to my face.

If it wasn’t for him leaving, not long after we took to visiting him, (just coincidental)  I would thank him in person for putting up with the ‘then me’.

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It would seem that my pre-mummy, delusional bedtime dream is shared by a primary school in Wisconsin, America. According to a recent article, this school decided to help parents with bedtimes, kindly providing them with a ‘helpful chart’ outlining suggested times on their FB page. It helpfully outlines times for bed (sleep time) in order to wake up at certain times (wake time) ie. If a 6 year old goes to bed at 7:00pm they will wake at 6:45am.

Guessing the school felt it had to act, probably due to a few kids snoring keeping the others awake, someone somewhere in the school decided to dream up a table and fill it with a load of shite of times and label it ‘Bedtime Table’.

I am amazed my kid’s secondary school haven’t jumped on this bandwagon and put up a similar one.  I have it on good authority, from my kids, that ‘everyone’ falls asleep in lessons. Now not wanting to wrongly guess it’s the lesson that sends them to sleep, it’s probably due to not getting enough z’s.

Only the other day whilst in school, my son was having a quick power nap, however he crucially forgot to remove the banned contraband from his mouth, and suddenly woke to his name being shouted causing a choking reaction as he believed the ‘lump’ in his mouth was in fact a fly!  Apparently his relief was immense when he spat it out to find it was in fact his bit of chewing gum.

Anyway I digress, so rather than weep with usual despair at the mere mention of ‘bedtime’ I felt myself having an unusual reaction to this word, it was laughter, reading the table wondering who would actually refer to it, let alone use it!

Over here in England the only FB page we have connected to both my kids schools are for ranting about anything school related sharing important fluffy information, such as recipe ideas for dinner.

The Only In America chart recommends children aged five have 12 hours’ sleep,  I agree and would champion this if anyone was willing to listen at home.

It further advises children aged 12+ need between nine and 10 hours sleep.  I’m assuming that’s for the weekends, in which case mine, are thankfully, getting more than the recommended amount, clearly nailing that bit.  Sadly, however, on school nights it would seem that unless they are all in bed and fast asleep by 9pm, they will not get the required amount of sleep! The chances of this happening probably as likely as me finding out Victoria’s Secret!!

A few parents, the kind that every school has praised the guide, commenting “very true I follow this” calling it “awesome”, adding they were going to show it to their kids if they complained.  Wow they must have really easy to scare kids, I can just imagine the scenario here whilst arguing the toss about bedtimes, I whip out this handy chart and the kids all recoil back to their beds, but hey thats just a scenario, the reality would see them laughing and probably throwing it in the bin, or more realistically the floor space surrounding the bin.

Over on FB the ‘comment here if you are on planet Earth’ remarks such as, “bet there’s not many who live by this table”, lol thanks for the laugh that is hilarious” and my favourite one “this chart was clearly written by someone who doesn’t have kids or doesn’t live in the real world” add a more realistic view to the post.

I don’t know about anyone else, but if you are one of the lucky few whose bedtimes are a non eventful process, then I envy you.  Bedtimes are an eventful occurrence in our house to say the least! however I often wallow in the proud cloud, that if anything, all of mine could go on to become great hostage negotiators.

Having nothing better to do ordering putting our kids to bed is the first step in a long process, with the window of dispute wide open for ooooh at least a couple of hours before it shuts.

A lot of wandering around and sudden urges to chat about their day happens only on the stroke of bedtime, sometimes the wandering is accompanied with a puzzled expression, usually mine, as they don’t have their phone in hand but rather a vague of explanation of looking for something, beyond any description, but crucially adding a few extra minutes to the avoidance of bed.  Luckily for them I am on hand to intervene and assure them I will continue the search for ‘nothing’ once they get to bed!

Not wanting to compare as there is no actual comparison, I have put together a snippet of a typical evening, fighting the bedtime battle, and unfortunately can offer no assurance that it gets better as they get older, our war has been raging on for 16 years, I’ll leave you to work out the chances!

09:00pm Bedtime warning sounds out to deaf ears
Repeat above
Repeat above
Apparently they all heard me the first time
The unfairness of it all debate
The homework he didn’t have is due in tomorrow
Mum you have remembered it’s my school assembly tomorrow?
Has no idea what the homework is & why would he ask the teacher!!! Its easier to ask his mates that don’t know either
Shit what assembly?
Time for a wander the phone needs a walk
Explaining why it’s not easier to go to bed in their uniform
Guidance given on where to wander to
Have I seen their library books due in tomorrow!
Wandering again this time pretending to look for something with added puzzled expression
Kids all finally in bed
Are they asleep? yes they must be they just said they were!
No they are not on their phones, why do I always assume they are?
Shouts out for phone charger for the phone he is not on
 11-11:30pm Desperate for a drink they are dying of thirst x 4
 Incoming text from son who is not on phone with breakfast order
 Do I wanna hear about his day? NOOOOOOO!!!!!

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So after a long & tiring pre-Christmas term of completing homework incorrectly, stuffing school bags, forgetting to pay school trips, under filling lunch boxes, causing headaches, way too many early mornings we were ready for the break!  Ooops sorry this isn’t about us parents, it’s about the kids, it’s always about the kids God love ‘em!

The long term had seen Ciara sitting her mock exams and Keelan just sitting..! Finishing school every day the threat of “I really need to revise” was said with real sincerity but alas all too quickly forgotten after the discovery of Gilmore Girls but she battled on, ever the optimist.

Meanwhile over at Primary school Niall had the embarrassment of wearing an ill-fitting Roman outfit for Roman Day.  Feeling overally smug and worryingly confident,  for not only had I remembered he needed a Roman outfit I had actually ordered it well ahead of time quashing any need for last minute panic runs to Sheets-become-Outfits aka Mum’s.

However, drowning in complacency, it probably wasn’t my best move leaving it until the night before for a fitting, doing that can only end in disaster, such as the wrong size, like Age 5-6 when Niall is 9, and we all know that these dress up outfits are always super small no better what age is says.

Seeing him in all his attire with hat resting on top of head for effect purposes, I managed to hold back on laughing out loud, I told him to look on the bright side, it wasn’t about Kings so he could be the poor homeless Roman boy,  to carry this look off he would need have trousers no longer than his knees, a top that sat nicely above his waistline with the stretched look and sleeves that touched his elbows,  luckily this outfit gave him all that, so convinced and seemingly happy he skipped off to resume device attachment.

Fast forward to January 2017 and Tuesday last week saw the return of the School Morning Battle Cry, only for the eldest two,  the younger two still had another day to magnetise themselves to their devices.  Although, not one to miss an opportunity Niall was up early apparently unable to sleep, apparently it was not for gloating that he didn’t have school.

With the battle cry sounding out from 6.55am the echoes of groans could be heard throughout, soon these groans formed silhouettes of what appeared to be zombies moving in for the kill but I’ve seen the Thriller video and the zombies are that were 100% livelier so I knew it was nothing more than teenage manifestation.

With breakfast over and moaning at an all-time high broken by the shouts of Keelan “Why has my button moved sides on my trousers”?  With a puzzled expression I sent hubbie in for clarification, after deliberation it was discovered that the trousers he had on were not his, they were in fact mine.  The question of what the “hell they were doing in his wardrobe?” rang out “how the hell could you not tell they weren’t yours”? Comeback was overlooked, this was 100% my fault how I could have committed such a trouser sin, now he had to take them off and put another pair…effort!

I quietly pondered the idea if the button had been on the same side would he have actually walked out in my trousers……I would like to think he wouldn’t have,  but then again this is the boy who put on his brothers school trousers once and wondered why they were so short on him!

This little mishap was soon forgotten as the air was filled with screams of Hurry Up, we need to get going, what’s up with him, his attitude is so bad, he gets away with everything and that was just from Ciara, bless her always on hand to chip in.

With no urgency or worry, Keelan announced “I can’t find my school shoes” this sent me into a frantic search, watched closely by Ciara tutting loudly and  Keelan who had the grace to remain calm leaning against the wall checking his phone, occasionally answering “nope”, “no idea” and “how would I know”.

With hubbie on board the search continued, with a sudden lightbulb moment I remembered I had dumped them due to the sole hanging off as did the fact I had not replaced them.  So with great delight Keelan got to wear his trainers for the day, with me reminding him that they were expensive blah blah blah and they had better come home with him, intermittently interrupted by Niall repeatedly telling Keelan to have a “nice day at school”.

Well I can report first week back in and things are going well.  Ciara has had a few of her mock results back and considering she never so much as looked at a revision book she has done well, but is  nervous,  as today is the big day their results come out, and all sealed in an envelope!

Evelena has decided that I will no longer be helping her with her homework as she was so embarrassed when her maths was all wrong, and fair play to her she has kept to her word.  I will not be disputing this any time soon.

Niall not one to break with tradition remembered he had homework last night on the stroke of bedtime, and with no one willing or available to complete it for him, it was down to him to rush his way through it.  After 10 minutes talking a good talk and questioning what my problem was, after all I should be thankful he a) remembered he had it b) and ever so slightly grateful that I didn’t have to do it.  My failing to see this was classed as ‘moody’.  So after researching said requirements he produced an impressive sheet of scribbles, mostly illegible but this was the plan, I see the method in his madness.

Finally what is any new school term without the start of roadworks?  Why would anyone want to carry this out at a convenient time, no its best left until the kids go back that way we can all work on the same timetable.   Turning up before the school bell rings, having a spot of brekkie, a mug of coffee, a quick chat, check phones, pivoting on the spot, staring at nothing or maybe it’s the screaming banshee in the mummy wagon stuck at the red light…that he’s staring at!

Christmas marks the beginning of my second favourite F word, fibbing.  This F word is batted around sparingly in the months leading up to December, but as soon as we hit the festive period the start of 24 nights of fibs start to roll of the tongue, and boy do I marvel at how good I am at this.

Writing this I can almost hear the gasps of disapproval ringing around me, but quite honestly I’m blinkered to the echoes of how wrong someone else may see it, as much as I’m blinkered to my OH telling me I’m useless at parking, I don’t care.

Coming from an Irish family story telling is in my blood.  I grew up listening to stories, some real, some fibs although I’m still not quite sure which were which, but I enjoyed them all.

One I know to be an actual fib was about a strange man aka Father Christmas, who would come into our house every year on the 24th night of December and leave presents for both me and my brother.  Sounds good doesn’t it, but alas this fib doesn’t sit well with everyone, it seems that by my parents fibbing I, along with my brother, should now have trust issues with my parents, as this line of fibbing can leave us questioning the words that roll out of their mouths.

Wow if this is the case I cannot believe I didn’t end up being carted off in a strait jacket to the nearest asylum as this wasn’t the only fib I got told growing up, I grew up believing fairies, leprechaun’s and banshees all existed, and spent many a night on holiday in Dublin praying the Banshee wouldn’t turn up on the window ledge to belt out a wailer of a tune,  and not only that, my mum told my friends these whoppers when they used to come over, oh the shame!!!

So here I am a survivor of the fibs, sane (well almost!) and ready to spill some of the fibs spun in our house over Christmas.

Christmas in our house starts with the hubbies ceremonial, grunting & groaning during the untangling of lights.  Checking out the neighbourhood competition usually calls for my husband’s favourite F word and a quick trip to the shop for a few new sets to thrown around the bushes artistically, although this year we seemed to have missed the memo that our neighbours got about the all new snowflake projectors in town!

And with a few more of my hubbies preferred F words I put it on the ‘must buy in the sales list’ and file it away in the black hole section of our filing cabinet.

Inside doesn’t escape the twinkly lights, but this is my domain and I like to keep it more grown up and sophisticated, with villages a glowing, peppermint cane candles burning, snowmen blinkering, National Grid rubbing their hands, we are ready to rock ‘n’ roll, of course the downside to this is

a) how long it takes to turn the bloody things off and

b) who’s turn it is to spend the 20 minutes or so turning them off, fortunately I always seem to have other pressing matters at ‘lights out time’!

Christmas is about remembering to put out chocolates for the kids every night, not from us but from the chocolate fairies, and hoping that hubbie remembered to replenish stocks that day but stupidly waiting until the twilight hour to check this fact!  Even the Quality Street tub can’t save the day when hubbie forgot since it contains nothing but empty wrappers.  It’s at these times I prefer his favourite F word and spend the night planning my missing chocolate fib to tell the kids next morning.

Christmas is about battling through shops with a list left at home, and wishing it was like the ‘list’ I asked my mum to write for her present ideas, a one item list, a book, a book that when I went to buy was told it wasn’t out until April next year!  Christmas is also about convincing the kids that the present I have actually ended up buying due to Argos being out of stock, is really a better alternative to what they really want!

But most importantly Christmas is about setting the stage for the biggest night of all, the visit from Father Christmas.

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Cue the FC Video, watching the kids in turn listen to FC using my second favourite F word telling them how good they have been, all year! And stifling my giggle as he reels off what is required of them to do, all carefully crafted by my good self.  Then sit back and listen to the echoes of my youngest son threatening that he will try to do his homework in good time.

Some from the club of ‘we don’t lie to our kids, ever’  have even been documented as saying it’s like a form of control getting kids to do what we want by fibbing they could end up on the naughty list if they don’t.  I agree it is a control thing and one I love to milk, this is the only time of year that practically anything I ask of them will be done pretty much first time and without resistance, and all at the mere mention of “remember who’s watching”!  The other 341 days are usually spent arguing my case!  I welcome this break with open arms.

Not only do we fib to our kids, we have now even enrolled my eldest two into continuing this fib, yes you read that right!  I even go that one step further and leave proof he has ‘been’.  He leaves his snowy footprints through the hall right up to the bedroom where all 4 of them share the same room, argument free, for this one night only.

His reindeers even leave their sparkly take off trail on our front lawn, and it’s not that mad woman who looks like she’s sprinkling grass seeds in the early hours doing it.

Stories, fibs whatever you want to call them are told every day by many people,  yet it’s this one story that seems to stir up a fuss.  In years gone by, men would gather on street corners in Dublin to tell many a tale, and one such tale an Uncle told me as a kid which I remember to this day.

With his Irish eyes a smiling, rosy cheeks a glowing and Irish voice a telling the story goes that many years ago a war was being fought deep in the Jungle, whilst running from the enemy a young soldier heard the faint cries of a distressed animal, troubled by the sound he ignored the danger behind him and followed the cries.  It led him into an opening where he found a baby elephant trapped, not wanting to leave him he freed him from the trap, gave him a pat on his arse and off the baby ran.

Many years passed and the young soldier now a man made his way to the Circus that was in town.  Sitting right at the back in the only seat he could afford him patiently waited for the acts to begin.  First on were the elephants, as he watched them enter the big top, he noticed that one suddenly stopped, turned and looked straight up at him.  Next thing he knew he was being whisked out of his seat by a large grey trunk and taken and plonked in a seat right at the front of the tent, and with a wink from the elephant the show began all apparently proving that elephants never forget.

Like that elephant I do not, and have not forgot all my wonderful childhood memories adorned with magical fibs of Father Christmas, Fairies, Leprechaun’s, and tales that I could sing!  And if I can be just half of what my parents are like then I know I have made it as a parent, and hope like me, my kids all grow up looking back on their childhood the same way I do and instead of having any such trust issues they just have fuzzy warm feelings.