Sunday, 27 September 2015

The honeymoon is over...

My baby is 13 months old, I'm settled back at work and we have just stopped breastfeeding. We are on the cusp of toddlerhood. My 'baby' is standing, well-balanced on her own and starting to take her first wobbly steps. She has graduated to the '1-2s' room at nursery. She is a baby no more...

and I? I feel liberated.

The breastfeeding and maternity clothes are gone: donated to charity or expectant friends. The baby clothes my girls have grown out of are being despatched to nursery (as 'spares') or to friends with younger babies. Ditto the baby toys that are too 'young' for us now.

This transition doesn't make me sad. I'm not welling up or harking back to the days of newborn. In all honesty, I found newborn hard with both girls. I'm really enjoying the stage we're at now and looking forward to the future with children (rather than babies).

My two girls are starting to build rapport. They love each other and enjoy each other's company. They share a bedroom and toys and clothes. They make each other laugh, they have empathy and they both LOVE Hello Kitty.

The 'babymoon' may be over but we've got so much fun, love and family time to look forward to.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

A picture of you...

I spent about half an hour today on a coffee break, talking to a colleague about his son, who was born a couple of months after mine.

My colleague described his son's interests, likes and dislikes. They love playing Lego together; they have started 'hanging out' with each other at the park; they are becoming real pals. My colleague said that he is really enjoying this new stage of parenting, where the child's personality really begins to develop and shine through.

During the course of the conversation, I began to wonder what Monty would be like at two-and-a-half years old. Would he enjoy playing with construction toys with his sister? Would he chase her around at the park, follow her up the climbing frame, or try to swing higher on the swings? Would he be able to speak in sentences or form an opinion? Would he like to snuggle up for a bedtime story?

I imagine that he would be boisterous and noisy and give us a cheeky grin. I imagine that he would share his love freely, with hugs and kisses for his sister. I imagine that he would like songs and stories and painting and sticking. I imagine that he would be lots of fun. I imagine that he would fit right in.

Friday, 4 September 2015

What a girl wants...

Last year, when my 5yo daughter started school, we introduced pocket money. We thought that it would be good for her to start thinking about dealing with money and practising counting. I gave her 50p per week, term time only and she could get an extra 10p if she got a mention in the school assembly for good work.

Friday became 'pocket money day'. My daughter likes to go to the local shop on her way home from school to buy some sweets. I encourage her not to spend all her pocket money in one go and to save some of it back for a rainy day.

Towards the end of July, my daughter pointed out that 50p isn't very much money. She often struggles to understand the value of certain sweets and gets frustrated if she can't afford something she wants. For example, she likes Kinder Surprise Eggs but they cost 99p - almost two weeks' pocket money - so she has to choose something else. She successfully negotiated an increase to her pocket money for the start of the new school year. Today, she will get 60p - the new standard rate. As before, she can get an extra 10p if she receives a mention in assembly. But 60p doesn't buy much more than 50p.

Over the summer, we visited grandparents and went on holiday. We accumulated packets of sweets and chocolates, many of which were gifts or treats from relatives. I have therefore told my daughter that I don't want her to spend her pocket money on sweets until all of the summer's spoils have been eaten. She views this as a punishment but I've tried to point out that she could spend her pocket money on other things, or not spend it at all and save it up for something special. My husband has incentivised her saving by offering to double whatever she can save up by the half-term holiday and take her to ToysRUs so that she can buy a new toy before Christmas.

I wonder what she will want to do this afternoon on her way home from school. I know that she wants to go to the shop and she has told me that she won't be buying sweets. Unfortunately, I don't think there is much that 60p can buy. It seems that children's comics and magazines start at £2 per issue (almost 4 weeks' pocket money!) and that there are no toys or trinkets for less than £1.

I don't remember much about my own pocket money. When I was my daughter's age, I think my mum gave me 10p per week on a Friday to buy sweets. But, back then, sweets cost a halfpenny or a penny each. When I was 8 or 9 years old, I would buy The Beano and I think I got £1 a week from my grandma. How much did the comic cost? I can't remember.

I wonder if I *should* increase my daughter's pocket money further? I'm not sure. 60p per week feels like quite a lot of cash for a 5yo to be responsible for, even if it doesn't seem to have much buying power. Giving her £1 per week probably wouldn't be enough of an increase to give her more options and giving her £2 per week suddenly becomes very expensive for me and puts her in charge of quite a lot of cash. Just think of all the sweets she could (and would want to) buy for £2!

In my view, giving pocket money at this age is not about giving her buying power but rather about encouraging her to perform cash transactions and to think about the relative value of commodities. If there is something she really needs, I will buy it on her behalf. Sweets are not needed, though, so she has to buy them herself. She can get a small treat for less than 60p, even if it's not the scale of treat she would like, but there is a lesson in itself. You can't always get what you want...