Kids Menus… WHY?

{Also published on The M Word }

Right. Ask anyone who knows me, I’m not one for giving out about anything really. I’m actually renowned for not giving out, ever. They’ll probably put it on my gravestone – Here Lies Jen (The Legend); She Never Gave Out Once.

Another trait I am partial to now and then, is sarcasm.

So yes, I’m about to start giving out about something that has irritated me since they day Rian was old enough to eat actual food in any establishment that sells food. Kids Menus.

WHAT is the STORY with children’s menus?! In a time where childhood obesity levels are at a crisis point, why are kids only ever given the choice of – Yes you’ve already guessed it – chicken goujons, burgers, fish goujons (sorry how do you spell Goujon? Gougon? Neither look right and both give me a red line typo alert….ok I just googled it and it’s goujon. Right-click, Add To Dictionary.)

While Googling how to spell Goujon, I saw some lovely looking ones appear in the search which obviously now makes me want some, cos to be fair to them they are very nice, but also it provided me with the nutritional value of what you’re eating in a 100g serving of them. That’s about 6 pieces it says. Anyway, it says that it’s 27% of recommended fat intake, 31% of daily salt intake (sodium) – and then there’s the accompanying chips which google tells me, a medium serving provides another 26% of the recommended fat intake –  so just this meal alone and your kid is over half the daily recommended levels. I’m no nutritionist but I imagine I’m not even accounting for half of the other bad stuff involved – sugars, carbohydrates, etc. I only found out that much specifically because I couldn’t remember how to spell goujon.

SO anyway, here’s a little story of what usually happens to set off this regular irritation. To celebrate a family birthday a few months back, we booked ourselves for a nice meal in a very nice local Italian restaurant. It’s the sort of place where families are welcome, yet you would still want to be controlling the noise level of your mini humans if you get me. So I had the boys with me, at the time Alex was just gone one and Rian was just gone three. Alex will happily eat whatever he’s given and Rian is old enough now to choose what he wants himself. They produce the kids menu and here we go again, it’s the same old same old. Rian sees someone at the next table with a pizza so naturally he wants one too.

Meanwhile over on the adult menu I see their roast of the day is Beef. Bingo. It’s my turn to order. ‘Hi, the three year old wants a pizza with everything on it but actually if you bring the smallest size you have, or even half the smallest size, with peppers, ham and a tiny amount of cheese, with LITERALLY five chips please, that would be great. Now I mean literally FIVE CHIPS please.’ ‘No problem, Ma’am, five chips.’ He seems to have received the message, because from experience of highlighting my need of only five chips, never ONCE has that been the result. ‘For the one year old, I see there is roast beef today, can I just get a slice or two of that with– ‘ ‘I’m sorry, Ma’am, we can only serve full size portions of the main meals’. ‘………?!…………….Ok… give me a full size one then and I’ll just give him some of mine’.

Now firstly, why they cannot just slice a couple of slices off  the roast and cut it into smaller pieces is beyond me. Surely it is less effort anyway than frying up more chicken goujons? Secondly, when the dinners are brought to the table, low and behold Rian is delivered of a pizza twice the size of his head, smothered in cheese and oil, with considerably more than five chips. He must have misheard me and thought I ordered five hundred and five. Rian is delighted with life and hoovers them all before I can try and distract him and remove half of them, and Alex happily munches away on my beef and veg, because there was nothing at all suitable for him on his own menu, oblivious to my irritation. Why do I never get what I actually ask for?

I just do not understand why kids menus can’t simply be a smaller portion size of the adult menus. Apart from health related reasons, wouldn’t it be more cost effective? And if you still wanted to give them the odd treat, they could still have the chips and burger from the adult menu anyway?

I suggest we get rid of Kids Menus and just have Menus. Order what you like but at least give parents and kids a chance at healthier options being seen as the normal option for kids. Kids don’t know they’re not supposed to like vegetables until we more or less tell them this by providing them with these kids menus. We are actually teaching them that they shouldn’t like these foods by separating their choices into goujons and chips and burgers so they think that’s all they should be eating. It’s just so bizarre to me.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

I’m not a health fanatic, I am constantly in a state of trying to lose about 5 stone myself, but it’s because I have spent years losing and gaining back weight and really learning about what I’m putting into my own body that I feel even more strongly about what we teach our kids from a very early age. I want them to understand their choices, not to simply say don’t eat this or do eat that, just know what it is. If you want a treat, that’s fine, everything in moderation as long as your overall efforts are the right ones.

I don’t want to come across as a killjoy either, I think my kids eat a good standard of wholesome food, at least we try our best anyway. We don’t use jars or processed foods as much as possible, but of course every so often they have ‘treat’ food as well. I absolutely do not want to appear as if I’m judging anyone here, but I just find it very irritating and extremely surprising that there simply isn’t a choice for kids. Its our responsibility to do our best for them, and to teach them to make the best choices for themselves in the future, but with no options at all, what hope have we got?

 

 

 

 

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Diary of a 2 Year Old

Don’t even bother trying to figure them out. They’re miniature versions of us, except they are  certifiably crazy. And yet, we were all 2 at some point and turned out pretty normal – at least I did!

Here is a day in the life of my particular 2 year old, as told by him. (He’s a genius)

5.50am

Rise and shine, campers! Ten to six already! They’ll be delighted with this lie in, what a treat. They’re gonna love me. I think I’ll celebrate by singing some songs. Let me see now, I know half of Jingle Bells – who says that’s just for Christmas? Not me – most of the Seaside song…. I do love a bit of You Are My Sunshine… but I think we need a bit of the Wheels on the Bus. Especially the verse where they sing about the baby crying…best verse ever. Loudest voice, and off we go.

5.52am

Oh wow what a great singer I am. Sometimes I don’t even know the words so I just make up my own but man, that song about the bus is such a classic. I’ll sing it again!

5.54am

Hmm what’s that smell? Oh well not to worry. One of them will be along soon to clean me up. Maybe if I jump on the bed a bit it will make it more fun to clean up. Come on Sniffy, jump with me! We can sing and jump all at the same time!

6.00am

Oh Sniffy, you’re the best friend a 2 year old could have. Let me hug you so hard your stuffing will almost fall out. Funny how neither Mama or Dada have appeared yet, they’re probably crying into their pillows with happiness at such a great lie in. Let’s go and see how happy they are to see us! We can press our faces right up into theirs, it’s so much fun when we do that when they’re pretending to be asleep. Anyway, I need a drink of water. Are you thirsty Sniffy?

6.01am

Morning Mama! Morning Dada! Hang on, it doesn’t seem like you can hear me, let me get a bit closer –

MORNING MAMA! SMELLY BUM! SNIFFY THIRSTY!

6.10am

All clean again! Mamas are so handy. I was right about all that extra jumping helping matters. She’s definitely awake now. Breakfast time! But first I’ll play a game of saying I want to wear my Thomas the Tank Engine slippers when really I have no intention of wearing them. I think she loves that game.

7.00am

I was right, that slipper game was the best.

I think she’s making that white gloopy stuff for breakfast – oh I love that stuff. It goes great in my hair and makes my whole face really soft when I smear it all over.

Mama! Spoon!

I love when I ask for a spoon and only hold it in one hand while I feed my face porridge with my other hand. Isn’t that what spoons are for?!

9.00am

Oh look! A crayon! What can I do with this? So many possibilities. There are two lovely little holes in my face at the end of my nose where I love to shove crayons. And any other item that fits. I know a wall or two that can do with some decent artwork though, I know Mama loves when I try to decorate things with crayons for her. Especially the cream couch. But come on, they asked for that one really. A cream couch! LOL.

10.00am

Mama looks pretty tired although I can’t imagine why. The day is so young! Wait! We’re going to the park! I love the swings! And the slide! And the swings again! And then when I get back into the swing I usually decide I want to be back on the slide RIGHT THIS MOMENT. NO I DO NOT WANT ONE MORE SWING EVEN THOUGH I LITERALLY JUST GOT BACK HERE! SLIDE! SLIIIIIDE!

Ok no I don’t want to slide any more.

SWING!

11.00am

Mama wants us to go for a walk. If I didn’t know better I’d think she was trying to tire me out. Bahahahahahahahahaha silly Mama.

11.30am

We’re going to visit Nana and Grandad! YAAAY! I LOVE NANA AND GRANDAD! Nana and Grandad seem besotted with me so Grandad brings me around the house and lets me press loads of buttons on things. He lets me sit in his car and press all the buttons there too. Nana sings lots of songs and reads me books and whenever Nana tells me to do something,  I do it! First time too, she doesn’t even have to issue any threats like Mama does! Nana really needs to tell Mama how she gets me to do that for her.

12.30pm

Lunch time yaaaay! Sometimes I eat it and sometimes I don’t. I like to keep Mama guessing. Like that time I made it look like I LOVED bananas so she put bananas in lots of stuff for me but then I decided I hated them so I just stopped eating them. Good times. Or sometimes it just depends on what bowl Mama puts stuff in. I can’t believe the standards of this place sometimes. Imagine expecting someone to eat something out of a red bowl?!?

1.00pm

I’m feeling pretty sleepy now but they needn’t think I’m going down for a nap without a fight. Although it would be nice to catch up with Sniffy, I’ve so much to tell him. Maybe I will go to sleep for a little while after all. But not without a fight! I think I’ll pretend I’m not tired by crying really loudly any time someone looks at me.

2.30pm

Oh no! They tricked me into sleeping again. Sometimes they do get the better of me, but I don’t let them feel too smug about it for long. Anyway,  I have a baby brother now, so when they’re not looking I’m busy teaching him all the tricks of the trade for when he gets to my age. Me and Alex are going to have so much fun! I love Alex.  I like giving him hugs and kisses with my germ-ridden hands and my snotty face! Snots are so funny! I like pulling them out of my nose and rubbing them all over Mama’s clothes. Her face goes a funny colour, oh it’s just so funny! Dada laughs too although he pretends like he isn’t, but I know he is really!

3.30pm

Oh look! A crayon! I bet this would fit perfectly up Alex’s nose! I better go and see if it fits.

4.00pm

Mama is making dinner. Time to take everything out of the fridge when she’s not looking! That’s one of my favourite games. Sometimes Mama lets me stand on my chair beside her at the counter and help her. I’m such a good help! I know how to reach all the things that make the most mess. Sometimes I help Mama by pouring stuff on the floor and then I like to roll in it.

4.15pm

Mama needs to use the bathroom. I like to follow her in there and ask what everything is. I know she likes the company and I ask so many questions about what she’s doing. Then I like to put on the taps cos I can reach them now! I love washing my hands and splashing lots of water and helping her use lots of tissue so I unravel it all for her. My favourite bit is when she presses the button and all the water gushes into that big weird seat! It’s very mysterious. Sniffy and I wonder about that a lot, so one day I decided to send Sniffy in there to see what actually happens. Mama didn’t seem too pleased and I didn’t see Sniffy for ages afterwards because he had to lie for a long time on the radiator but at least he was nice and warm after his swim.

4.20pm

Alex made a mess of his own. Mama is cleaning him up so it’s time to see how far I can jump off the couch – oh look! Mama’s phone! I know just how to press the buttons on this. Sometimes I press them too much and then nobody can use the phone at all for ages! Oh it’s so much fun!

4.30pm

Time to ask Mama what she’s doing again. I like to ask this a lot. Sometimes I might ask ‘Mama? Ah-doing?’ and when she answers, I’ll ask it straight away again. Just in case she’s doing something different. She’s not. But it’s best to check every 2 minutes, to be on the safe side. I hate missing out on stuff.

OH WAIT! I HEAR A VAN! NEE-NAW NEE-NAW! Even though Mama says that’s not the sound a van makes, I don’t care! I love vans. And fire engines! AND TRACTORS! But most of all I like trains! Percy is my favourite. Mama loves watching Thomas with me! Sometimes I make her put it on and rewind it again and again so I can see my favourite bit! AGAIN MAMA!  I heard her tell Dada that she knows all the words by now and sometimes even dreams about trains for the three hours a day she does get to sleep. She’s so lucky to have me to help her!

5.00pm

DINNER TIME! Oh I love dinner time. Especially when there’s dip to dip all the food into. I’ll eat stuff if it has dip on it. It’s funny how almost everything is called chips though, I need to figure that one out. But I do love chips so I’ll always eat them! Mama calls everything chips and I trust her because she would never just tell me that to get me to eat stuff. Sometimes chips are green and they don’t taste as nice but I dip them into my dip and I eat them anyway. I love dip! Mama says Sniffy eats all his chips too. I love Sniffy!

6.00pm

Oh Goodness, Mama is so silly. We were playing Peekaboo and I had the best hiding place EVER in the middle of the room with my hands over my eyes – and she STILL couldn’t find me! I gave her such a fright when I shouted PEEKOOO and she finally found where I was hiding! Oh it was so funny! You’d think she’d know my hiding place but she never figures it out! I’m such a genius!

6.30pm

DADA IS HOME! Mama looks very relieved. I’ve no idea why – today was so much fun! Now that Dada is home, I don’t want Mama to do anything for me for the rest of the night! Dada is my hero. He swings me around and throws me on things. I think I heard Mama shouting JESUS CHRIST once but I was laughing so hard she might have said something else! Dada is the best fun!

7.00pm

Time for bed! I don’t want to go to bed, so I start to shout a lot. They said I didn’t have to go to bed, but then I wouldn’t get to brush my teeth with my Thomas toothpaste. I love that Thomas toothpaste! They squeeze it on to my penguin toothbrush and it tastes so nice! Mama tells me not to eat the toothpaste but I do it anyway. Then I ask what everything in the bathroom is 20 times just in case I forget. I also want to know what it does and why it’s there. Then we get Sniffy and get into bed. Mama thinks I’m almost asleep but then I remember I need another drink! Then she thinks I’m almost asleep again but then Sniffy needs a drink! After all that drinking I need a song to celebrate so Mama sings another song. She hasn’t got a great voice so I help her. Just as Mama is leaving the room I remember that I have to tell her another story! And then we sing another song. Mama almost leaves the room but then my mouth feels like sandpaper because it’s 20 seconds since I last had a drink and I need another drink of water! After a while I forget what it is I want and I’m quite sleepy now anyway so I cuddle into Sniffy who gives the best hugs and say ‘night night Mama, I love-oo’ and as Mama closes the door I hear her blow me a kiss and say she loves me too.

 

 

 

 

The Toddler and the Newborn

I have a theory that when you have a baby, it’s natural to wonder SWEET JESUS WHAT WAS I THINKING repeatedly during the labour and birth, directly after the labour and birth, the first week when you’ve had about one hour sleep in total and can’t really move without pain…in fact pretty much all the time for the first six weeks or so. Yes, of course, the good far outweighs the bad – the moment you first see the baby and get to hold them – two moments of my life that make me so unbelievably proud and grateful, and teary just remembering them. The first time the Toddler met the Newborn.. heart melted! But getting back to my theory – somehow your brain makes you forget why you kept repeating that line. Was it really that bad/painful/tiring? (YES.) But it’s a good thing really cos otherwise we’d probably be extinct by now.

But, sweetness and light aside, it is really kind of hard! And that was just with one. I’ll admit it, I was petrified of how I was going to cope with the toddler with a newborn thrown into the mix. Terrified! It was beyond me how people had 3 or 4 or even more kids! It still is. Or twins!! Just, how??

Our beautiful little Alex was born 12 weeks ago today, making Rian a Big Brother. A role he takes very seriously by administering as many ‘Ayxx kiss’ kisses and ‘Ayxx huggy’ hugs as often as possible. It’s very sweet. A thought I need to think a lot during a typical day with a Toddler and a Newborn.

Now, thankfully, I get paid for a good chunk of my maternity leave so we can still afford to have Rian with the (amazing) childminders. This gives me time to spend and bond with Alex and also keeps Rian in his own routine, which works for us all. However, for the days when I’m manning the ship alone with them both…well lets just say there are more relaxing days you could have.

It’s interesting how your brain sort of divides into two. One half stays in toddler mode and the other develops a newborn mode. Things like – is it feed time?  Have you had your tummy time today? Did I give you that vitamin D dose yet today? While on team toddler you’re trying to keep them endlessly entertained and you’re saying things like ‘No you cannot play with that sharp knife. Because you could take your eye out. Because knives are not for playing with. Where did you even get that knife anyway?!’ Before finally managing to distract him into making you more wooden  fried eggs on little wooden slices of toast from his little wooden toaster.

Distraction is key and it’s a skill you need to learn with a toddler – pronto. Toddlers basically spend their days finding new ways to maybe kill themselves, such as finding the knife drawer, trying to swing out of the stair gate, and launching themselves off couches. Maybe that’s just my toddler but I suspect not. And when you try and make them see that these are perhaps not wise choices, well, good luck. Cue the meltdowns. So it is essential to have distraction backups at all times on standby.

And as for going anywhere..! Remember the day you had to go somewhere and you just got up, put on your jacket, and went? Me too. Now it’s a military operation of lining up bottles and non spill toddler cups, snacks and bibs, spare baby grows and spare clothes, nappies for kid 1 and nappies for kid 2. Now, how shall one transport kid 1 and kid 2? Commence buggy packing into car, then buggy assembling out of car.  Honestly you’re wrecked before you even get to wherever you are going.

Things I think in a typical day of Toddler and Newborn management include things like:

  • How did that get there?
  • What the hell is that smell?
  • Why is this wet?
  • What did you just do?
  • Why did you just do that?
  • Pick that up/Put that down
  • Where the hell are the wipes?
  • What the hell is this on my nice clean jeans?

That last point brings me onto another highlight of this experience. Bodily fluids. There’s nothing that I can’t face now. I can confirm that within the last 12 weeks I have been covered in puke, pee and poo ALL AT THE SAME TIME. The 3 P’s. Fun! But now I barely bat an eyelid. Somehow I’m programmed to still gaze into the culprit’s eyes lovingly and wonder how they got to be so perfect. It’s a very clever trick when you think about it.

 

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This blog post was brought to you by my little typing assistant, Alex

And the guilts just double really. If I have Rian here all day, I have no time for Alex. When Rian goes to his childminders, I spend the day thinking about him and wishing he was here. I also spend a good chunk of my days wondering am I doing it all right. I thought I’d be a pro this time around seeing as I already produced the toddler, but not so. He’s so different that I may as well be a newbie again. Sometimes it’s a bit like I’m starring in my own show of Spinning Plates… just as you get one up and spinning steadily, the other one wobbles and you spend your day running back and forth between them keeping the show going.

I used to wonder and worry a bit in case I didn’t love this baby as much as the last. That sounds ridiculous I know, but honestly, Rian means absolutely everything, I just couldn’t see how it was possible to love anything as much. But what happens is amazing – the love I have for him just basically doubled up the minute we knew Alex existed, like a blanket big enough to wrap them both up in. I used to secretly wonder if every parent secretly preferred their first born – although I am a first born so you can see why this would be the case, clearly I am amazing… – but for me, no, they’re both as amazing as each other. Two very different babies so far, two different little people both amazing in their own right. How lucky we are to have them! They’re our little miracles, that’s all there is to it.

So yes, some days make me cry with frustration and tiredness, and shout at Gavin (sorry Gavin), and I doubt myself at least 80% of the day but what a fun adventure we’re on! I know it will go too fast and some day I’ll be begging them to take their old decrepit mother out for the day and spoon feed me stuff and you never know, I might get my revenge in the bodily fluid department too.

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The Toddler and the Newborn

For lots of fantastic advice and inspiration for dealing with your own toddler and newborn, why not check out this amazing blog run by the lovely Zoe Withers at ThinkBaby.org. You could start here by reading this great post about finding the safest co sleeping baby beds – here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Love Like This

Every day I think I have to pinch myself to check if it’s real. This amazing little person who, 2 years ago, was still only under construction and who had yet to make his grand, and let’s face it, life changing entrance. I look at him and wonder, ‘how are you even here?!’ He’s amazing. And we created him!

 
Rian is the best thing to ever happen to Gavin and I. It’s such an obvious thing to say of course, any parent would say the same about their child. But how do you describe this feeling, being a parent? The usual; it’s hard work, long hours, little or no sleep etc etc and that’s mainly what people will talk about. Even when I was pregnant people said things like ‘Oh enjoy the peace and quiet while you can, you won’t get that back for a while!’ (We didn’t); ‘You might as well enjoy those lie ins, they’re soon to be a thing of the past!’ (They are); ‘Your life will never be the same again!’ Well it’s certainly not, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Of course other people told me what it would be like from the other side too, all the good things that come with it. The fun and the cuteness and the general happiness a child brings. But it’s still difficult to explain it, I don’t think I expected it to be so strong as it is.

Millions of poems and songs are written about the love you feel for your child (Sarah – Thin Lizzy / Isn’t She Lovely – Stevie Wonder are just two that spring to mind) and you sing along but not really pay any attention to the words. At least I didn’t. But how do you describe the love you feel towards your own child? It’s different to anything I’ve felt before, and it’s a love that brings an element of fear too.

It’s an overwhelming thing. Sometimes I feel it so strongly it makes me want to squeeze him so hard, as if to pass some of it through to him so he can feel it too. As if it would act as a protective shield around him everywhere he goes from now until forever. Maybe in a way it does do that! I would do anything for him, anything to protect him. And with that comes the fear I mention. How can I always protect him? Prevent him from all the horrible things that are out there?

His little face smiling up at me, full of innocence and purity. Ok, I’m verging on getting too mushy about it all maybe, (blame the pregnancy hormones?) but it makes me love him even more and want to protect him and preserve that purity he has. When does a person lose that, when does the cynicism of life creep in and chip away at all that innocence? I suppose all I can do is teach him the best way I can, how to deal with the horrible things he’s bound to experience and hope I equip him properly for any battle he’ll have to face whether it’s in the school yard or years from now in whatever he ends up doing in life.

And while I wonder  how it’s possible to love something so strongly it sometimes makes you so afraid of losing it you think you’d lose your mind, I wonder how it works when another little human appears. Does it get split in two, to share between them, or does it just double up, making it stronger and scarier all at once? I suppose I’ll find out soon enough. But now that I can feel Bump moving and kicking, a whole little person in there, when I see the little heartbeat on a screen at a scan, our newest little human, I think it just doubles up. Inflates itself out wide enough to cover them both. And hopefully protect them both.

I read something somewhere recently and although I can’t remember now what it was about exactly, it said something about parenting meaning being responsible for the only childhood someone has. That stuck with me and I thought about it for a while. It’s such a huge thing when you think about it! There are loads of guidelines and tips and tricks for how to teach kids this and that, but the overall picture is much bigger. Gavin and I are responsible for someone’s whole childhood, the whole foundation of how his life will unfold. It’s more than teaching him right and wrong etc, but building a store of memories and fun and laughter… basically, just happiness I hope. When I think of my own childhood I think of sunny days, excitement, fun and overwhelmingly I think of happy things.

When I went to see the Disney movie Inside Out, it completely affected how I look at Rian! All the little memory balls that go into storage in different parts of his brain, shaping who he becomes. Some must be pre-installed I suppose, personality traits and genetics and all that jazz, but some are shaped as we go. It’s not all sunny days and lovely surprises of course, he’ll have to learn to deal with all sorts of emotions. We can tell already he has inherited my quick temper, and naturally my amazing levels of genius…(!), he has Gavin’s good nature and affection and already I can tell he’s going to be kind just like his Dad.

Hopefully with this shield of emotion coming from both Gavin and I, and as they grow up, from eachother for eachother, it will get them to where they’re going safely and we can sign off Project Childhood as a successful mission complete… (whereby the terms and conditions of said childhood will kick in and involve making me pampered and treated like a Queen in my old age….!) In the end, I think it has to be scary and big, sometimes overwhelming, because otherwise how else would you do it! Either way, I know we’ll give it our best shot and hope it works out in the end.

However, doing it with lie-ins as a regular feature – is that too much to ask?? 🙂