Down on the Farm

If you have or have ever had toddlers in your life, you will know just how important it is to have places to go out and about with them. Staying at home all the time does no one any good and in my experience toddlers have far too much energy than they rightfully know what to do with (lucky things! I wish I could say the same). If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know just how much we love The Hen House, a local soft play cafe, and that hasn’t changed. But as the weather becomes a touch more unpredictable, it’s starting to get busier (quite rightly) and that doesn’t always work for us. Recently we’ve started to frequent (when we can get there and when the weather allows) Applegarth Farm in Grayshott. We’ve been going to Applegarth, since he was a tiny baby in his Maxi Cosi handbag car seat (you know, the kind you carry over your arm like a handbag?). They’ve always had a lovely restaurant and shop there. But recently they had something of a makeover (I say recently, it’s probably a year ago now!). They extended the cafe and really juzzhed (is that how you spell it? Zhuzzed, zhusshed… oh sod it, tarted) up the outdoor play area. Not only does it have swings, play houses and a slide, it also has animals, climb on wooden tractor and best of all space. Oh yes and a secure, high latched gate. I can’t tell you how important a secure environment is for any toddler, but when you’ve got a runner/wannabe Houdini (no one ever believes how quick he is, til they’re running after him) it’s essential. We don’t go to unsecure parks near roads for this reason and it is certainly why I’m mighty cautious of the new set up at The Herons (we’ve yet to try it in person, but no gate and electric doors scare the bejesus out of me). Anyway thats not an issue at Applegarth.

He loves a good swing and all the other wooden equipment they have there. He can have a jolly good run around and a look at the animals when he fancies. But most importantly for Oscar, no matter how busy it gets (which in my experience is never heaving) there is always somewhere for him to take himself off on his own for five minutes, allowing him to come back smiling. Everyone’s got their way of coping and that’s Oscar’s. In The Hen House he does it by sitting and playing on my phone for five minutes, but here he goes under the tree house, or down by the rabbit hutch, returning to join his buddies. It works for him and that keeps us going back.

As long as it’s not raining it’s definitely our choice at the moment (and the wonderful coffee and cake they do is by no way an enticement 😉 ) I just wish we could find somewhere more weatherproof that had the same kind of space. If you’ve got any suggestions then please feel free to let us know.

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Chillaxing in the treehouse

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Americano with skimmed milk. And no cake. Of course.

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Playhouse

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Swing

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Tractor

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Five minutes down time

 

The Twos

The terrible twos. They really are terrible. In fact, I’d go as far as to say they suck. Big time. Not just for me, but for him too. We had something of an epic fail in the past week, one behavioural disaster after another. Some weeks are just like that I guess. It started with a return to toddler group after the summer break. Hammer is big, it’s noisy and it’s busier than a branch of Next on the first day of the sale. It’s full on, always has been. In the past he’s been OK with it, sometimes good, sometimes not so good. Last week was not a good week. Then there was a failed trip to the Hen House. Meh, it happens I guess. It’s this ‘pushing’ phase that’s doing my nut. I know it’s his way (whether right or wrong) of expressing himself (“you’re in my space/touching my stuff/touching stuff I deem to be mine because I glanced at it 20 minutes ago and I don’t like it”). It’s not malicious. But other people don’t see that. They just glare and in some cases admonish me for his behaviour. His speech delayed, frustrated, two year old behaviour. Sigh.

So what do I do? Seriously? Much of the advice given by official channels is to ignore bad behaviour (er not always possible, especially in public when it’s involving other children) and getting them to talk through their feelings (hmmm can we park that one for now?), in fact much of the advice just seems to be ‘well yeah, this is going to happen and you gotta ride it out best you can honey, sorry. We’ll talk again when he’s three, OK?’. My initial reaction on Friday was to never take him out again. Ever. Again. We’ll just stay in I thought. He wont meet other children, but that way he can’t push them (his modus operadi) and no one will look at me like I’ve pissed in the punch!

I’m not serious of course. What would that teach him? Nada, nothing, zip! I know that really. Just some days, I feel like I’m walking a tightrope. Blindfold. With my hands tied behind my back. Whilst reciting Chaucer (I really hated Chaucer at A’level). Sometimes  I’m just so tired to my bones with all this worry and indecision and feeling just not quite good enough, that the path of least resistance just starts to look mighty appealing.

Yeah, the last week was not a good week.

But then, actually, wasn’t it? Thursday, Friday and Saturday could have been better. Sure. Things could have gone more the way I wanted them to, but ya’ know, no one died. And Sunday’s trip to Alice Holt and Tuesday’s trip to The Hen House, whilst embarked upon with gritted teeth, worked out amazingly well. No pushing, minimal squealing, making friends and laughing like a loon (him not me. Well a bit me 😉 )

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Taking turns

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Swinging happy

And then there’s the speech. The delay in Oscar’s speech is, I feel, impacting greatly on his behaviour, but guess what? Those pesky little words are starting to emerge. Slowly, and in a really peculiar order, but in the last week my boy suddenly has something of a vocabulary. It’s a mixtures of single words like ‘ready’, ‘water’, ‘more’ and ‘flower’ and then even some short phrases like ‘another one’ and ‘I don’t want to’! Whether they ‘stick’ and he continues to use them regularly is yet to be seen (apologies for my cautious tone, but we’ve been here before. Said bear four times in one day, never said it again) but in a week when everything was dreadful, actually it wasn’t at all. He even has a name for me now! I’m Nuhnuh. Just when you think it couldn’t be worse, it suddenly isn’t. That’s the twos for you.

The terrible, terrifying, wonderful twos.

What’s made you proud today?

I’m conscious that there are things Oscar clearly loves and others he’s not so keen on, but I’m also aware that he’s a toddler and fickle as you like. What works today, wont work tomorrow as it were. So while it might be easy for me to avoid things he hasn’t enjoyed in the past, it’s also somewhat lazy (and if I always did this we could end up doing nothing). He could change his mind about an acticity any day, so it only makes sense for me to give him periodic access to the things he hasn’t enjoyed previously. It’s like me with olives and Edam (now love olives, still can’t stand Edam)

This is how we found ourselves at a Top Banana craft session this morning. We’ve attended various courses and sessions run by our good friend Lana, some have worked for us and some haven’t. This morning was craft based fun, so playdough, painting, sticking and colouring. Seriously what’s not to like? It was a pretty safe bet. Only thing was the class was being held in his favourite place, The Hen House and previous attempts at getting him to focus on something in the party room, when there is all that free ranging soft play the other side of the door have failed dramatically.

So it was with some trepidation that I took him this morning.We arrived a little early, to give him a chance to play as he wanted to, and as Lana really kindly emailed us the list of activities to me last night, I took some time to tell him what was going to happen. And I’m happy to say it wasn’t a disaster. He played with the playdoh for a while and then made a snail, sticking small pieces of card to a paper plate. He’s not used glue before and I think we’ll definitely be investing in some for home!

This morning's Top Banana Snail

This morning’s Top Banana Snail

 

All in all he lasted 20 minutes of an hour class. I could have tried to hold him in the room, when he really didn’t want to be there any more, but who would have gained from that? I’d given him the access I planned to and it actually wasn’t as awful as it could have been. It didn’t stop me feeling deflated afterwards, sitting alone drinking my coffee. Then I realised I was focussing on what he hadn’t done, when really I should be focussing on what he had done. Which was more than I thought he would. Positive thinking is quite a new thing for me. A year ago, I would have totally just focussed on what we hadn’t achieved. But now, I don’t know, that just feels pointless. Seriously what’s the point on focussing on what wasn’t there? Something that didn’t ever exist? When there’s this concrete thing in front of me, something that does exist?

It’s not always easy and yeah sometimes I still wish he’d do stuff other kids do (or what I think they do – who I am to say what they do is better?). But for now I’m focussing on what he does do. What IS there.

Which today was a feeling of pride and a snail.