The Cartoon Conundrum

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We have 74 episodes of Paw Patrol on our planner; the children have viewed them countless times. “Would you like ‘Pups in a Fix’? ‘Pups save the Basketball Game’?” “Had that one. Had that one,” they say. Whenever I find an episode on Nick Jr that we haven’t seen before, I punch the air with excitement. ‘Pups save Friendship Day’ and it’s double-length too. What a bonus.

In quiet moments I find myself deliberating the ideology behind the cartoon. There’s a disappointing lack of back story. What’s going on with Ryder? With his high-pitched voice he is clearly pre-pubescent, so where are his parents? His friends? Does he not go to school? How is he so well-adjusted? And what about the Paw Patrol business – is it state-funded? Do Ryder and the pups get remunerated, or do they just get board and lodging? I unload the dishwasher in the morning and realise I’m humming the theme tune.

There is a kind of consistency with the format of cartoons which is strangely comforting. Ryder and his team in new episodes look exactly the same as in the previous ones. Ryder has no facial hair yet, no wobble in his voice; Rubble hasn’t developed arthritis in his hind paws; Marshall still shows little sign of brain damage from all his tumbles. The characters start afresh in every episode, just as every toddler starts the day anew having forgotten that his sister hit him over the head with a saucepan the day before. One day my children will tire of Paw Patrol, just as they tired of Peppa Pig, and move on to Spiderman or whatever the next stage is and the pups and the pigs will entertain future generations of pre-schoolers.

Young children of the 1980s watched Cities of Gold, Scooby Doo and Scrappy, Super Ted, Bananaman and Dungeons and Dragons. There would be one episode of a particular cartoon (depending on the day) and then we had to turn off before Grange Hill came on with its more ‘mature’ scenes. We weren’t able to watch all 36 episodes of Super Ted over lunchtime while our mothers were doing the 80s equivalent of admin on their iPads (i.e. peeling potatoes or washing nappies in the twin-tub).

I found an old episode of Dungeons and Dragons on Youtube and played it to my daughter to see if she would be interested. Have cartoons changed so much that my children would find them outdated? I was surprised: firstly at the fact that the ‘baddies,’ including a five-headed dragon, are quite scary – to a four year old. Secondly, that it was a US show. I remembered a lot about the cartoon, but hadn’t picked up on the American accents. Even the Canadian Paw Patrol has English-accented pups for its UK audience. Thirdly, at how familiar the characters still were: Sheila, the girl with red hair and the invisibility cloak who we all wanted to be, Uni the little unicorn, and Dungeon Master, who talked in riddles but who the children trusted.

And that it is the beauty of cartoons; the characters don’t age. Not only can they transport you back to the time when you sat on the orange-patterned rug by the fire and stared up at the square box with the fuzzy picture, but nothing pops up on your Facebook feed with the words “You won’t believe what Dungeon Master looks like NOW” before you have to click through 20 links to see a photo of him ten stone overweight and going to the shops in his dressing gown. They remain on screen as they did in our memories. As John Nash in A Beautiful Mind realises of the girl in his imagination: she does not age so she is not real.

My daughter sat and watched Dungeons and Dragons but didn’t ask to watch a second episode. Perhaps these old-fashioned cartoons should have a Beauty and the Beast-style makeover, complete with CGI and celebrity protagonists. Would that make them more appealing to the sophisticated cartoon-viewers of our children’s generation, or do I just want to relive my childhood?

This Mum's Life

‘Tis the season to be jolly (fa la la la la…)

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On the town age 18: could life have been better twenty years ago?

Hurray for Christmas party season; the time of year when I imagine myself to be the picture of sophistication in sparkling earrings, perfectly coiffed hair, immaculate make up and a flattering festive dress. Except nowadays the challenge is simply to get out the house without blobs of cheese in my hair and snot on my trousers.

Rewind ten years (twenty is too long ago for my baby-addled brain to recall) and the picture was very different. Here’s what I remember about (rose-tinted) pre-children party preparations compared to the current challenges of exiting the building in the evenings without three children clinging to my ankles.

Getting ready for a night out aged 28

5.30 pm – choose uplifting mood music; try on 14 different outfits with a variety of shoes, scarves and jewellery.

6 pm – relax in decadent bubble bath with a wide array of posh smellies; use deep conditioner; face mask; pumice stone and complete a thorough shave of all the necessary areas. Rise from the bath wrinkled, hair-free and smelling like the perfume counter at Debenhams.

6.50 pm – brush teeth, pluck brows, slather body in expensive scented moisturiser, then crack open a chilled bottle of Sauv Blanc.

7 pm – apply make-up carefully using serum, primer, concealer, foundation, powder, blusher, intricate eye make-up and lipstick.

7.30 pm dry and style hair whilst dancing to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.

8 pm – after 17 texts and calls to finalise the sartorial decisions, finally leave the house in chosen party dress and glamorous fake-fur jacket, 4 inch heels, a cloud of Coco Chanel and a sequined evening bag bursting with make-up for mid-evening reapplications, folding flat shoes, cash, bank card, keys, phone.

Simple, huh?

Getting ready for a night out aged 38

5.30 pm – feed whining, snotty children beans on toast and Petits Filous, then get baby yogurt hands in your hair when on all fours wiping the kitchen floor with a paper towel.

6 pm – relaxing bath-time (for the 3 children): do laps of the landing as you chase the hyperactive toddler who is screaming ‘no bath, no, no NO, don’t want it BATH’; dunk three of them in the bath and pour a jug of water over their heads and stick a toothbrush in their mouths; stop the older two drowning the baby and poking him in the eye with the toothbrush handle; get weed on by the baby as he sits on your lap in a towel; retrieve pyjamas and nappies after the toddler throws them over the bannister and finally wrestle them into their night-clothes after a bribe of ten episodes of Peppa.

6.50 pm – stick on Peppa Pig and while they are momentarily distracted brush their hair, wipe their noses, apply Vicks to coughing chests and crack open a carton of blue-top milk.

7 pm – during the quiet TV time: stop the oldest two from kicking each other; ask your daughter not to pull down her pyjama bottoms and pretend to do a poo on her brother; pick up all the puzzles and toys that the baby has pulled from the cupboards and dodge the plastic balls that the toddler is chucking around the room.

7.15 pm – drag them up to bed with the lure of stories, dummies, extra milk and cuddly toys. Read the Gruffalo, the Gruffalo’s Child, What the Ladybird Heard and Room on the Broom.

7.30 pm – explain to the crying four year old that you’re only going out for your tea and the babysitter is LOVELY; placate crying toddler with third bottle of warm milk and change crying baby’s 4th pooey nappy of the day.

7.50 pm – dig out a pair of moderately clean jeans and a crumpled sparkly top (which you wear over a thermal vest).

7.55 pm – wash pits with old flannel; clump mascara onto eyelashes; dry shampoo hair; change pants; locate some old earrings; run toothbrush over front teeth and in your haste spray Coco Chanel in your eyes.

8 pm – offer babysitter a glass of Sauv Blanc and run from the house as if from a crime scene in a pair of comfy boots, with some tissues, an old lipgloss, keys and bankcard shoved in the pockets of your winter coat. Text babysitter from the taxi to check that everything is ok.

Ah, life in my late thirties. Wouldn’t change it for a moment (ha!).

This Mum's Life
My Petit Canard
Mummuddlingthrough

The best things about having 3 children under 5 (yes, really)

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Disclaimer: not all of these children are siblings and we may not have all been under 5, but to me this photo is the perfect reason to have 3 young children

It would have been much more straightforward to compose a piece on the subject of the worst things about having 3 children under 5 years old: including for example the nightly waking-up relay; sobbing infants clinging to various parts of my body; Peppa Pig on repeat; going anywhere or doing anything being a logistical nightmare; the constant battle to keep them amused; Weetabix stuck between my toes after every breakfast.

But that seemed unnecessarily negative. As much as I can find myself wishing away great swaths of time, the other part of me knows that one day in the not too distant future, I will hark back to this period as a happy time of innocence, (relative) harmony and sleep-deprived simplicity.

So here are my top 8 great things about having 3 under 5 (I was aiming for 10 but I got stuck – any suggestions welcome…)

  1. Finally, I’m funny!: When I do my distracting-them-at-tea-time totally crap juggling routine with two satsumas, they laugh hysterically and nearly fall off their chairs with amusement. Clearly, this one has a shelf life.
  2. Their friendship: They are close enough in age to enjoy playing with (or fighting over) the same toys and my oldest says that her little brothers are her best friends (I know this won’t last forever). She can even interpret my toddler’s words when I can’t (“Eye sore Ugg?” /“No, Mummy, he saw a slug” /“Aaaah”)
  3. Every day is a new day: Even if one of them (or me) has been grouchy or emotional the day before, they don’t remember. Or if they do remember, they don’t mind. Their little brains neither judge nor bear a grudge. And when they wake up each morning they are refreshed, happy and full of bounce. I hope one day that will rub off on me.
  4. The physical work out: I am so used to carrying a child in each arm (usually whilst avoiding the lego bricks on the stairs) that I am sure I could now hold my own in an arm wrestle, which I never used to be able to do. I imagine that I am Jeff Goldblum from ‘The Fly’ snapping the wrist of my opponent due to my brute force.
  5. Assistance with menial tasks: I can say ‘who wants to help water the garden?’ and they say ‘me, me, ME’ and run outside with their small plastic watering cans while I issue directions from the lounger. They even have a mini broom and dustpan and brush, and when I say ‘whoever sweeps all the food from the floor first can help me sort the washing’, they sweep and brush with even more determination.
  6. The welcome home: When I return home after an absence, long or short (usually short), they run or crawl with delight to the front door and nearly knock me over.
  7. The excuses: I can get away with being a bit rubbish on most fronts and it doesn’t usually seem to matter. Late for an appointment? I’ve got 3 children under 5! Forget a birthday? I’ve got 3 children under 5! Sainsbury’s delivery man waiting on the doorstep? Not volunteered for anything at school? Absent from the office Christmas party? Ditto, ditto, ditto.
  8. The smallness of their world: Their lives revolve around our little family and they copy what they see with their own miniature versions of adulthood: they push buggies, shove dolls under their jumpers and strut around in our shoes saying ‘hello, I’m too busy’ into plastic phones. If they have a problem they come straight to me, and I can usually fix it. And when they want comfort they can fit on my lap, sometimes all three of them together.

When I started writing this piece a while ago it was called ‘the best things about having 3 children under 4’ – but without me having had much to do with it, they got older. Maybe that is the best and the worst thing.

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Mummuddlingthrough