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Wednesday, 24 February 2016

You Have The Right to Remain Silent: # 6 Upon Your Choice of Child Name

Please excuse the delay in getting this blog out; this little character announced her arrival two weeks ago...

I really like my name. I'm pretty sure I always have. Lots of people haven't, however, or didn't around the time of my birth. Interestingly, they felt the need to say this to my mum.

In the early 80s Emily, Charlotte and the usual chart toppers were reigning supreme as much as they still seem to now (less so Anne but then she always was the slightly less awesome Bronte sister). So Mum tried to do what I since have sought to: call her baby a more unusual name. And as so often with all things baby, the various responses to both of our choices came thick and fast; some positive but of course some negative. 

Why negative, though? I remember being struck, even as a kid, by how rude I thought it was that anyone would openly feel the need to disapprove of your choice, whether that same name belonged to some imbecile they once knew or whether it just wasn't their cup of tea. The issue here is not how those people feel; I don't think anyone - me included- can claim that they haven't disliked someone else's baby name idea for either reason (and I'm always utterly convinced of how very right my opinions are). But there is public and private dislike, surely, and to tell someone you didn't like their choice would be like telling them you thought their outfit was ugly.  And for us English, this would be unspeakably rude. 

Or would it? It was during my first pregnancy that I mused over this parallel and considered that the cheek of the comment lay not so much in its openness as in its timing. That is, was it a comment made during the time of choosing (while pregnant / in the changing room) or once the choice was irreversible (some time after the naming / after the purchase)? 

It was here that I remembered fashion guru Gok Wan, no less. His shiny nugget of wisdom is this: when clothes shopping, always do it alone. Seek no-one's opinion because you know what you like and what suits you and, pre-purchase, you don't need friends clogging up the changing room trying to convince you otherwise. Not only that, post-purchase with you wearing said outfit/item, nobody would be a big enough arsehole to tell you that it looked foul upon you, for what good could possibly come of that? Needless to say if they did say this, well, then an arsehole they surely were and where you went from there would be your call.*

Ah Gok, the reach of your advice knows no bounds. 

I was much heartened by this nugget, since once or twice I myself had made the mistake of spilling the name beans when people had asked about my bump. Well, no more. By the end of that first pregnancy, Husband and I had decided to adopt Gok's philosophy and it has been empowering ever since. 


Don't tell people before the birth: if you like the name then why should you care what they think or, worse, be made to have second thoughts? 

Only tell them after: they have the right to an opinion but they also have the right to remain silent, which they should exercise unless

a) their comments are positive
b) they are an arsehole
c) they are a close friend/confidante/mentor with whom this kind of candidness is acceptable, even desirable (though you both should still double check the criteria for b) before proceeding)
d) they are someone who mistakes themselves for c) when they are in fact b).

Someone told me recently that upon using Gok's advice with her own baby's naming, her mother still retorted: 'you've called her that? Well I don't like that name.' 

A note about d) people: they are often relatives. Let's face it, if this sounds familiar then this aspect of your relationship is probably the least of your worries. 

And not even Gok can help you with that one.


*I added that last sentence myself, though I'm sure it's what Gok himself would conclude in a nice way.

Seen the book? Take a look!
Twitter:  @ericajbarlow
Instagram: @ericajane_20   #lookingatyoubabydotcom
Facebook: Here's Looking At You, Baby 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

#5 Seven Gifts and Trinkets for Children...Which Suck

Cookie Cutters, Playdoh, Make, Create, Fun, Bright
Playdoh: a genius classic, or designed to torture parents? 

I've just realised that writing the title 'gifts and trinkets for children THAT suck' could have been a little more ambiguous. 

Good thing I checked myself before I wrecked myself. 

So enough time has now passed since Christmas for me to draw some strong, lucid conclusions as to which children's gifts are actually more of a curse. 

Now before I go any further, do not mistake this for being a blog about toys that are unsafe for children, or that children do not like. Oh no, these feelings of anguish concern themselves only with The Chief Put-Away-er, or floor scrubber, or whomever. In this case that would mostly be me. Indeed you will see many toys below which Son positively raves about; I just like to think that he only gets to haul them out with my approval.

Except when I'm really tired.

Or it's a really rainy day.


1) Play Doh

Read: Play D'oh. 

Yes, like I said, this list may contain children's 'classics' and this item is no exception. Son loves  to get his box off the shelf and take out all the little tubs of this stuff, squawking in frustration as he needs me to actually squeeze it out of said tubs. Now I have to say, playing with it does occupy him for quite some time which, as we know, is No Small Thing. He has a machine where you put it in one end and it splurges out the other; he has little plastic mould- cases where you shove the playdoh in and, upon reopening, take out a cool dinosaur or superhero shape. I can see the attraction.

This is all well and good but it's just the goddam mess. I know, I know, toddlers make mess, but this is some next-level shit.  Forget the fact that its colour integrity has vanished upon very first use since it soon becomes a murky, hodge-podge ball of primary hues. It's that upon trying to tidy this stuff away, you are faced with one or any combination of the following:

All over the table, or more likely, your floor: the little poos of mice on acid, i.e. tiny roll-y bits of rainbow pastry that defy being picked up by adult fingers. In fact, nimble toddler fingers are ideal for this task yet strangely Son seems to disagree.
Indeed if they are not picked up immediately:  hard old mouse droppings which are of no use ever again, OR
Little flattened discs that have been trodden upon and that you have to scrape off the floor with a knife. Even if you succeed in this part, some dull shape forever remains to mock you where the play doh has been, with the ridges of said knife still in it if you're lucky. OR...
Worse still, wodges that have been trodden into your carpet, flattened forever like chewing gum into your shag.

 This concludes my discussion of playdoh.

2) Most children's fridge magnets. Again, Son delights in faffing about with these animals, numbers, letters. However my issue with them is twofold:

  • They often fall off the fridge and end up kicked underneath, gathering fur and grease until the next decade when the fridge gets moved. Now you could say that this happens to ANY fridge magnets, however:
  • Kids' magnets are pathetic as magnets. This is my chief complaint. If they're going to sit on the fridge door, they can at least prop up my electrician's phone number, a postcard or, more sweetly, Son's finger paintings. But they cannot hold up jack and fall down if you even try to put a piece of loo paper between them and the metal surface. Thus begins the fate that I mentioned above. Useless.

3) Most noisy children's toys. Particularly ones with tunes. If you have ever bought one of these for a child, it is very likely that you do not have children. Be aware that upon reception of such an item, most parents immediately reach for the miniature phillips screwdriver they got from a cracker and set about removing the batteries. 

** Now I may have misled you slightly into believing that I have never bought any such gifts for children. Logical though this may be, it is untrue. I believe I have bought all of the above on various occasions, I just seem to think how awesome a gift they'd be for the child and forget about the parent. This may be the point of buying children's gifts, I hear you cry, but do not forget that on tricky days when Son is being less than compliant, it is the parents' friendship / tea / wine / tequila I will need. 

However, in my stupid quest to be a Great Host-Mum at my son's birthday party, I am as likely as anyone to shove the following into party bags that took me about eight hours to prepare:

4) Whistles. Read the above on noisy toys.

5) Tiny tubs of playdoh. Nuff said. OR chalk or crayons for decorating Farrow and Ball walls.

6) Cheap chocolates that make dog chocs taste like Lindt. Well, the e-number high and crash is not something the host will have to deal with, so that's all good. 

7) Large bubble-dips, you know, the long, thin ones with fairy liquid in where the kids blow the bubbles out through the weird oval ring. Except a) Not only does your toddler yelp with anger at not being able to do this and thus force you to do it, b) they insist upon doing this inside and c) upon any hard floor, they manage to spill the solution so that it forms slippery blobs for you to slide about on, like invisible banana skins. 

Ideally, next Christmas / birthday party we would never see any of these things again. But let's face it, perhaps among us parents there is an element of schadenfreude to all gift/trinket-buying and I'll treat the above more like a handy shopping list. 


Seen the book? Take a look!
Twitter:  @ericajbarlow
Instagram: @ericajane_20   #lookingatyoubabydotcom
Facebook: Here's Looking At You, Baby