First time – How I discovered Build-A-Bear is magical

A branch of Build-A-Bear (Not ours as my phone is full).  Image by Enoch Lai licenced by Creative Commons

A branch of Build-A-Bear
(Not ours as my phone is full).
Image by Enoch Lai licenced by Creative Commons

For years my now 15-year-old niece insisted she just had to go into Build-A-Bear for a look, not to buy anything, honest.

As childless aunt I didn’t get it. My sister was enthusiastic which is fair enough.

Then I spawned.

Now the spawn is four. My sister insisted on taking us to Build-A-Bear for my daughter’s fourth birthday.

We went into down, me feeling a sense of dread and doom and W bouncing in her seat as she’d finally get to go through the hallowed doors.

To be fair the colourful array of soft toy skins and accessories does look fabulous if you like that sort of thing.

Two members of staff were enthusiastically manning the store in Churchill Square, Brighton.

It smelled of lemon sherbet.

Rainbow bear at Build-A-Bear

Rainbow bear at Build-A-Bear
Image by
Anthony Easton on Flickr, licenced by Creative Commons

Poor W was slightly overwhelmed by the choice, not just soft toys but sounds and smells too.

Fortunately as an expert my sister helped her pick out a colourful basic bear and we chose a six phrase voice box (no smell).

All well and good I thought, then it came to filling the bear and I felt blown away by the magical experience.

Little W enjoyed helping pump the stuffing inside the empty case, once we had put in her own bar code and the sound.

Then the heart. This was special. She picked a gingham one, warmed it in her hands, rubbed it on her knees, elbows, across her heart and whispered a wish before giving it a kiss and putting it to her nose.

Apparently that make it work. Her little face was a picture. She bought into the magic, as much as a four-year-old will. It’s her bear made her way, with things she wanted.

This was the moment I got it. It’s more than just filling a bear shape with fluff. It is enchanting.

Once the fluff filler sewed up the toy now named Bunny Bear (I just dunno), the next mission was creating the birth certificate, so it returns when lost, and buy half a tonne of clothing.

My niece still has a wardrobe full of Build A Bear clothes and we might need one. It even has slippers and shoes.



Pack pony mothers? My take on the anti-parent media

Sling baby

Here I am spoiling my child by wearing her in a sling. Isn’t it pretty.


Babywearing seems to be this week’s hot topic among mums after a blasting in the Mail and on Loose Women.

It all started with a MailOnline story about mothers who carry four-year-olds, illustrated with one mum carrying an infant on her front, and preschooler on her back.

From reading the comments on the Loose Women Facebook page, one of the mums involved felt the tone of the article misrepresented the subject.

I’ll out myself now as an enthusiastic baby wearer. My slings were a lifesaver when my daughter was tiny.

Getting the pram up and down the stairs in front of the house and then inside to our flat, was quite frankly, a pain in the arse.

She was much happier strapped onto my front. I could always get a seat on the bus, too, no matter how many prams were on board.

A theme among the negative comments is children won’t learn to walk if they’re carried.

People yelled at me in the street “you’re spoiling that child”. Complete strangers chose to call out a mum.

Seriously, what’s the difference between pushing them around in a pram or carrying them?

Eventually they learn to walk. Using a sling doesn’t make it any less likely.

When they’re small they can’t walk far anyway.

I last used my toddler-sized sling in late October.

We had a lot of walking to do that day so I took the Tula.

When she complained she was tired and didn’t want to walk any more, I thought it was a bit early but rather than have a whingeing small child, it was easy to get her strapped in.

Within five minutes she was asleep. She was knackered.

It’s important to listen to little people. When you listen they appreciate it and it does prevent meltdowns.

Why do presenters and panelists on popular daytime TV shows and Britain’s most-read newspaper, seem to have an agenda against the different ways people choose to parent?

If it’s not Loose Women, it’s This Morning. Breastfeeding, baby-wearing and attachment parenting seem to be weekly topics for knocking.

There’s too much detachment in our post-industrial world.

Part of me wonders if the rise in depression and anxiety in modern society has something to do with detachment.

“Leave them to cry”, “don’t cuddle they’re manipulating you”, are all lines I’ve heard.

Cuddling and comforting small children makes them feel secure and loved.

They’re simple creatures who just need to feel safe.

Holding and carrying makes them feel safe and is healthier than pushing in a pram or driving in a car.

I love this open letter to the Loose Women production team from Something About Baby.

Let’s hope they’ll listen.

Don’t think I’m a bad mummy

A tantrumming toddler clinging to his mother's legs

Tantruming toddler. Image by Francisco Carbajal, licenced by Creative Commons

Dear lovely mummy I was chatting with yesterday, I could tell from the look on your face you were horrified when I snapped at W.

She is only three. What you don’t know is she had pressed all my button since waking that morning.

It was pretty rough the previous night, too.

So when she climbed out of the car seat after being asked nicely to sit in it four times, yes, I did snap “get in your seat”.

You were lovely, on the crunchy spectrum talking about schools without uniform and freedom of expression.

I love the way my daughter expresses herself. She is wonderful and creative.

But, you know, sometimes I lose my shit.

When she rarely melts down, I cuddle and talk about her big feelings.

At other times I just want to yell “just eat your dinner”.

I grew up being yelled at and hit for random transgressions.

Every day I don’t lash out is a victory.

We’re past the three-and-a-half year mark now.

There are times when she pushes her luck and I’m okay, I can handle it.

Some days aren’t so good.

Forgive me for my five-minute failure. I felt so judged but I beat myself up about it, too.

Review: Flyaway Katie


Waiting for the show to start

Taking your not quite three-year-old to the theatre for the first time is daunting.

Will she be okay? Will she sit through it? Will she mutate into a screaming banshee? Will she need a wee-wee five minutes into the show?

I picked Long Nose Puppets production Flyaway Katie, as its Brighton Fringe billing suggested it was suitable for three to seven-year-olds, and it was 45 minutes long.

As we entered the Big House at The Warren on Twitter, a pop-up venue within walking distance of home, I took a deep breath.

W knew she was going to a puppet show and was very excited.

When the light went down she squealed with delight and gasped when Katie the puppet appeared from behind the curtain.

From the first moment she was captivated.

It is such a delightful and positive story, about finding happiness and colour in your life with friends’ help.

Katie’s grey day is transformed, as is she, with the wonder of the imagination.

The story is based on the children’s book by Polly Dunbar with music by Tom Gray of Gomez.

I tried to encourage W to sing along, but she looked stunned when asked.

The songs were wonderful and gentle tunes, illustrating the story perfectly.

It was a magical experience.

Flyaway Katie is on at 10am and 11.30am on Sunday, May 15. Tickets are £8.

Think I’ll use the baby change as my private toilet…

Baby on a public baby change

Baby change
Image from Wikimedia Commons by katorisi

Something happened on a ferry that just left me completely gobsmacked.

We were on the large, slow Holyhead to Dublin ferry when W decided to releave herself.

She was charging around the ship in a stir-crazy fashion, stopped, gave me a hard stare and announced “poo”.

We went back to Daddy for the changing bag – he had done the first change – and headed off to deal with the package.

There was one baby change room. It was unisex, quite handy as my husband sometimes finds himself going into the ladies with W when they are out and about.

It was locked. Fair enough, there were a few other babies on board and they do not coordinate their poo time.

Then the door opened.

A man wearing a hi-vis vest and clutching an open packet of cigarettes came out.

He was alone.

I have a very strong feeling he was not changing anyone’s nappy, least of all his own.

This made me feel cross.

Baby change is not your own private loo, it’s a place with a surface and a sink where you can scrape the poo off young children’s bottoms.

I started wondering, do some people consider a baby change a fast track loo or place for a quick dump?

A separate space isn’t really necessary, but I suppose some people object to seeing small arses smeared in faeces.

I know I object but I just have to deal with it.

Now, do people think of baby change in the same way as they do parent and child shop parking. Is it fair game?

Thing is little people have delicate cheeks and, let’s be honest, no one wants to walk around with pants full of poo.

Maybe some people think an adult’s dump is more important.

Gentle parents battle with toddler violence

Drawing of children fighting, licenced by Creative Commons from Wikimedia

Drawing of children fighting, licenced by Creative Commons from Wikimedia

Today toddlers did battle and horrified mummies apologised.

I met with a fellow mum to talk about a project and our two were not friendly.

My friend was mortified when her child bopped W on the head. This was probably revenge from when she stole said child’s croissant last week. It was best served cold.

Toddler X received a good talking to from mum, who is one of the most gentle and caring parents I know.

I aspire to her calm and gentle approach.

Unfortunately W is equally keen to lash out in frustration, anger, tiredness or whatever reason she feels this is the required response.

I always say “gentle and kind”, “that hurts mummy, be kind to mummy”.

Sometimes I say this through gritted teeth as she has lashed away with her talons (nails clipped once a week).

The incident resulted in a discussion about small children and their propensity for violence.

My own thought is their reaction is basic primitive instinct rather than learned behaviour.

Neither child today experiences violence of any kind in the home, yet they hit.

Young in the natural world fight for food, their place in animal society, supremacy, for dominance.

Was what W and Toddler X doing any different? I suggested.

No matter how calm and patient you are with children there will still be difficult times when they react.

As parents we need to teach them calmness and how to have an internal dialogue with themselves when annoyed.

Or do what I do when someone really annoys me and vent to understanding friends.

Violence is never the answer. I look forward to the day when W realises this.

Resistence is futile little one


We bought a new car seat.

W seemed to like it when it sat in the living room as we practised securing the impact shield.

“Seat, seat,” she exclaimed.

Sitting in it was a game.

Her fists banged down on the impact cushion with delight.

“Hurrah,” I thought. The Kiddy Phoenixfix brings happier times than Maxi Cosi.

Then we put it in the car and her attitude changed.

W has a history with car seats. She hates going in them. Her back arches as her body goes convex and rigid.

Once we get going she is usually fine.

What really galled me was she started sitting in the old Maxi Cosi left in the hallway.

“Seat, seat!”

Yes, just as long as it isn’t in the car.