I thought I knew a thing or two about parenting. Not so much the big stuff, like how to get everyone out to school in the morning without repeating “hurry up!” four million times even though apparently you’re not supposed to tell kids to hurry up. And not how to get them to eat vegetables or anything except their current favourite food: bagel and cheese microwaved so it’s “lovely and soft”. And definitely not how to get a small boy to sleep without hearing “I can’t sleep” before I get within five feet of exiting his door.
But the things that are under my control – I thought I’d figured them out. Like banning glitter. And secretly binning the last murky-brown remnants of Play Doh. And the false economy of extra TV (hello cranky kids) and chocolate at bedtime. Sadly, it seems not. I forgot the golden rule: do not buy noisy toys. And this week, I bought three of them.
Well, to be accurate, birthday vouchers bought three noisy toys, if that’s any kind of defence.
The first noisy toy is a bird that talks. The six-year-old chose to spend her birthday voucher on a “Little Live Pet” (not actually live, thankfully) bird in a cage. You press the button on the bird and talk, then the bird repeats what you’ve said, but in a bird voice. The small boy has taken a great shine to it. He says “My sisters are nincompoops” and doubles over laughing when the bird repeats it. He also says “My daddy is stinky and my mummy is bee-oo-tee-ful.” Actually, I quite like the bird.
The second noisy toy is a metal detector. The eight-year-old wanted a metal detector for her birthday, but we thought she was joking. It seems not – she spent her birthday voucher on one. The metal detector beeps loudly any time it’s within ten feet or so of metal. So inside the house, it beeps constantly. Like a constant smoke alarm. Like just the kind of noise you don’t want to hear when you’re rushing them around before school in the morning or trying to get the small boy to count sheep at night. She is going to find treasure with her metal detector she says, and buy twelve new outfits. She’s not buying a new house, because “even though our house is small, I really like it.” She is going to buy me twelve new dresses with her treasure too. Maybe I don’t hate the metal detector. No actually, I do.
The third purchase was a book about a horse called Sugarlump, and a unicorn. The book itself is all very fine, although the message is a little unclear – a moany horse who is constantly unhappy with his lot, a unicorn tries to help in spite of ungrateful moaning, and the horse is still mostly unhappy. But the book comes with a CD, and the small boy has never owned his own CD before, so this was VERY exciting. He got me to play the CD in the car the day we bought it. And every day since. On every one of our twenty-five school runs a week. We get to hear Joanna Page read the story, then sing it.
And the song is both terrible and wonderful all at the same time. I can’t get it out of my head. The kids can’t get it out of their heads. Each time one of us comes close to banishing it, someone else accidentally blurts out a line from the chorus, and we’re all doomed to earworm hell again. I do however enjoy when the small boy asks for “Sug-ah-lump” – pronouncing it as Queen Elizabeth no doubt does when she’s babysitting George and Charlotte. It makes me smile. Tiny, tiny silver linings. But yeah, no.