Tag Archives: girls vs boys

For your little Drama Queen – Theatrical birthday parties at Royal & Derngate

Here’s a press release from Royal & Derngate about their new birthday party idea. Rather them than me . . .

For parents looking for something a bit different for their child’s birthday party, Royal & Derngate now offers a new option – theatrical birthday parties packed with music, games and activities and with the excitement of a starring role in a mini theatrical performance!

Taking the hassle out of organising a party, the theatre considers every detail, tailoring it to suit each individual’s needs and catering for the ages of the children. Armed with the perfect party music, bold and beautiful craft materials, exquisite face paints and fabulous costumes for dressing up, Royal & Derngate’s professional team will be brimming with creative ideas and will lead the party from start to finish, ensuring each and every guest experiences a truly special birthday party.

The theatre can also provide a delicious selection of party food, so all that is left for parents to do is to enjoy the event in a safe and relaxed, family friendly environment.

Parties cost £150*, with an additional £5 per child if food is required. Parties are available for children up to 14 years, with a maximum of 25 children per party.

For more information or to book, please contact Natalie Diddams on 01604 655777 or email natalie.diddams@royalandderngate.co.uk.

*prices went up fifty quid after I originally posted this

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Why a scar on a girl’s face is different to a boy’s

OUR boys are always nursing some injury or another – stop! Don’t ring social services, they are boys, and they play sport.

I wouldn’t want to generalise and say boys get more scrapes than girls, but having three sons one after another it seemed from the moment they could walk they were scraping knees and elbows. While we’ve been lucky enough so far (*touches wood) to avoid any broken bones, Jed has a large scar on his elbow plus one on his eyelid, Dougie has several on his knees, plus one on his eye, and Billy Whizz seems to be attempting at every opportunity to get a scar of his own.

But while the boisterous boys will expend their energy on the rugby pitch, their self-appointed princess of a sister has her own daredevil streak and is constantly trying to climb things that shouldn’t be climbed or stand on tall objects.

However it was rugby that gave her a major cut recently, not playing it yet, but falling flat on her face while we were watching Dougie play. For some reason she didn’t put her hands out to stop herself and ended up with a cut on her nose and a grazed chin and lip.

While I was obviously concerned, I found myself fussing about potential scarring, and guilty that I was more worried about our daughter having a scar than I’d been about our sons. Boys can wear scars and scabs with pride. Girls get neurotic and self-conscious about them. Especially when they are right in the middle of your nose.

She’s not bothered, although when I said she mustn’t pick at it or she’d get a scar on her nose, she was instantly concerned. I’d forgotten that to a four-year old, Scar is the baddie in the Lion King . .

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Princess turns into Dirt Girl as worms become new pets

AS previously mentioned in these ramblings, our four-year-old daughter Bonnie is not absorbing the influence of her rowdy elder brothers and becoming a tomboy.

Quite the opposite. Much to my surprise and bewilderment, she can be the girliest of all girly-girls. She’ll always choose a floaty dress rather than trousers, will chat away about ‘pretty things’ with her pals, the Disney Princesses, and will pronounce, over-dramatically, “I’m scared” about everything from dinosaurs to the dark, (when she clearly isn’t).

However, she did me rather too proud at the weekend when I finally got a blessed hour or two to tackle some over-due gardening tasks.

Worm girl

Turning the compost heap has been on my to-do list for about a year, and as I shoveled the upper layers into a wheelbarrow, she spotted dozens of creepy-crawlies running, wriggling and slithering for cover.

I expected her to decide that she was scared of beasties but to my surprise she delved right in with her bare hands, gleefully collecting fat brandling worms and letting them wriggle about on her palms.

My requests for her to carefully put the worms back because they needed to be away from the sunlight fell on deaf ears – they were ‘her’ worms. They would be her friends. I had images in my head of finding dead worms in her doll’s house or chest of drawers.

I explained that to the worms, she was a giant – “I’m not a giant, giants are big” – and that she might be scaring them. Only then did she reluctantly give them up to go back into the compost heap.

That’s when she spotted the prehistoric-looking centipedes, running for their lives. She jumped, and hid behind me, unwilling to share my enthusiasm for the speedy bugs. “I’m scared of those,” she announced.

I’m keeping quiet about my similar dislike of moths . . .

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Not keen on playing happy Sylvanian Families

I’VE managed to keep all but one Barbie doll banned from the house. Make-up is still the preserve of grown-up ladies and not little girls. But my goodness, why didn’t anyone warn me about Sylvanian Families?

Daughter, just turned four, was given a dolls’ house for her birthday, and some money to buy some people to live in it.

So we headed to Earl’s Barton’s famous Jeyes Pharmacy. Like the Tardis, this is no ordinary chemists but has an extraordinary warren upstairs of dolls’ house merchandise..

After trying to stop Bonnie touching tiny, delicate, miniature furniture and fittings in the Dolly Lodge, an amazing emporium for older collectors, we wrestled her out of the door and fell into a room filled almost entirely with Sylvanian Families toys. If you aren’t familiar, these are tiny toy animals dressed in clothes. And there are LOADS of them, costing about £15-20 a set.

I tried to get her to look at some peg-doll style wooden dolls’ house people, but she only had eyes for the rabbit family, the dog family, the monkey family, et al. While I tried to steer her towards the rabbit family (seven members, better value), she wanted to spend her cash on the four-strong hamster family and an extra pink hamster baby.

I have to admit, I find the whole SF look a little disconcerting in the 21st century, as they are a little wholesome and Stepfordian. Where’s the Emo teen hamster? The working mother hedgehog dressed in a suit rather than a pinny?

Still, they do fit perfectly in her dolls’ house.

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The Girl is Four

A few days old . . .

First Birthday












Second birthday


Third birthday












Fourth birthday










THE Girl is Four. It seemed a straightforward enough caption for a picture posted on my rarely visited Facebook page, but I didn’t expect quite as much incredulity.

What? She’s four already?

Yes, four years ago I wrote in these pages about the new arrival to the family, The Girl: Bonnie, a surprise to us all after three beloved and boisterous boys.

Looking back at the photos scattered around various hard-drives, memory sticks and cloud sharing sites (it would have been far easier if I’d printed some), you see that four years is quite a long time.

For a start, she was born with black wavy hair like her dad. Now she has pin-straight, wayward dark blonde hair like her mum.

For the first year she was a laid-back, compliant baby (well, as much as a baby can be), and now, well, she pretty much refuses to do anything she’s asked unless it’s on her terms.

I did congratulate myself on her fourth birthday because I wasn’t pregnant, nor had I been delivered of another baby in the previous four years.

When Jed had his fourth birthday, his little brother Dougie had already arrived. When Dougie turned four, I was pregnant with Billy. When Billy celebrated his fourth, I was pregnant with Bonnie. This time there’s no fifth baby on the way!

We’re well past the milestones that all you new parents will be facing: the endless nappies, night-feeds, weaning, walking, talking, potty-training and (most of the time) tantrums.

Birthdays have been developmental stages too.

The first birthday is for the relatives and the one-year-old is fairly baffled by the whole palaver. The second birthday might see more relatives and friends in attendance, and Bonnie’s third was the first time she had friends over. Two of her pals came to our house for games, dressing-up and cake.

The fourth birthday was the first ‘outside catering do’ as we took Bonnie and ten friends to the Wacky Warehouse and let them all go bonkers in the ball pit for a couple of hours. They had a brilliant time.

At four, she’s now fairly independent – wanting to dress herself, take herself to the loo, write her name, count to 20, walk without holding your hand and tell you in no uncertain terms that “I can DO it!”

Yes, she’s utterly unself-conscious about singing loudly and without any discernible tune, and will dance in a shopping aisle if the opportunity arises. But she’ll also hide behind you and be shy with strangers, and jump on your lap if something is ‘scary’ (which at the moment seems to be everything from polystyrene dinosaur bones to bedtime).

When I carry her to the loo half-asleep at midnight each night, it always startles me how much she’s grown, from the tiny baby who could nestle into the crook of one arm to the girl who rests her head on my shoulder while her feet dangle at my knees.

She’s ready to start school in September which will be another milestone for both of us, especially for me as I know there isn’t another baby coming up behind to distract me.

Inevitably, she’ll always be my baby, but not because she’s the youngest. I look at all four of them and think exactly the same thing.  But don’t tell them I said that . . .

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Are party dresses conditioning girls into impractical clothes for women?

BONNIE has just got to the age when birthday parties are the most exciting thing to EVER happen to a kid, what with all those ball-pits, pass-the-parcels, party dresses and cakes.

Up until the age of three, parties can be a little baffling, but when they reach the grand-old-age of four – as Bonnie will in a week – the socialite is born.

She’s been to two parties in the past two weeks for her best friends Izzy and Alice, which have both led to a dilemma I don’t remember witnessing with the boys: what to wear.

The boys just accepted whatever shirt and trouser or jumper and jean combination I wrestled them into; for Bonnie it seems far more important than that.

She’s been coming home from nursery and putting her summery party dress on just to have tea – and objecting most loudly when sent back up to change.

She seems genuinely conflicted about whether a pretty party frock or Princess dress-up is de-rigueur for a party at someone’s house, or at Wacky Warehouse, or Berzerk.

While I’m trying to coax her into a t-shirt and jeans so she can be more comfortable, she’s wriggling into some multi-layered Rapunzel floor-length ballgown.

I just don’t know where her love of dresses has come from (as you can tell, it ‘ain’t from me). So we’re already compromising: I let her wear her fancy dresses over a pair of leggings and a t-shirt, and wellies if the weather is bad.

At Berzerk last weekend, I bumped into a former colleague and Dad-of-Girls on similar party-marshaling duty. I voiced my concerns about letting her run about the climbing frames and slides in an ankle-length dress, and he laughed. “You’re not used to dealing with girls yet, are you?”

Then he pointed out that just about every girl in the place was dressed in flouncy frocks, with sequined cardies and pretty clasps in their hair. And they were all climbing as high as possible, running as fast as they could, and not caring a jot about having to hitch up their hems to do so.

I guess this is the start of a learned tolerance for impractical clothing that every girl takes into womanhood . . .


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Tears and tantrums (mostly mine): it’s uniform-buying week

WE’RE meant to be shopping for school uniform. I’m leafing through the endless racks of black trousers in BHS when I realise I’m talking to myself.

Two of the boys are across the shop wrestling over a tape measure while another and his sister have managed to climb on top of a Thomas the Tank Engine toddler ride in which they’ve already lost 50p.

Their coats and bags are strewn across the floor which other shoppers are having to step over. I shout. It’s all rather embarrassing.

One of the boys is ordered into the changing room laden with eight pairs of trousers in differing sizes, some of which are unhelpfully security tagged together in pairs, so when he emerges to show if a pair fits, he’s dragging its twin along like a bedraggled, dusty tail. None of them fit properly.

The shop assistant stares, unhelpfully, as I try to fold them back onto their hangers.

While another son grumpily enters the changing room, daughter decides she’s going to take every adult shoe off the rack and try them on. When this game is stopped she starts the wailing and flopping routine, refusing to walk or be carried.

Son emerges having decided the first pair of trousers he’s tried are fine and throws them into the basket. I look at the label: £16 for one pair. I send him back in with a £7 pair, knowing I’ll be spending most of the year sewing up hems and gussets wrecked by breaktime football. They fit. We buy two pairs. Then two more, cheaper, in M&S.

Here we go again then, one week to go before they’re back at school and the hell of uniform shopping is firmly upon us.

With three offspring in school, two of whom seem to grow every time they leave a room, it’s an expensive time of year – especially if you’ve just reduced your working hours for the holidays. I think this September’s uniform will have cost me over £300. And I’m a make-do-and-hand-me-down-bargain kinda mum.

It’s not just the cost, it’s the stress. I know you’ll tell me it would be a trillion times worse if I had three girls, but let me assure you, traipsing around the shops with bored and grumpy boys isn’t fun either.

I’d hoped that Dougie’s compulsory school uniform would last more than a year. It hasn’t. His blazer has a weird bleach mark across it, his tie is mutilated, his PE kit is either lost or too small. Along with Jed’s new kit, the official stuff is going to cost the best part of £200 when the shop opens this week.

Shirts are easier. Multipacks for boys are between £7-10 and Bill’s yellow polos cost a fiver for three. Job done.

But then there’s the annual trouser hell. Girls seem to have lots of styles and stretchy fabrics. Boys are stuck with flat front or pleated in stiff Teflon coated fabric. Two sizes – skinny or enormous.

Shoe shopping for our boys seems to have a basic formula.

The conversation usually goes:

Them: “I like these.”

Me: “They look like trainers. You aren’t allowed shoes that look like trainers.”

*repeat several times and get home empty-handed.

There have been some successes. A speculative TKMaxx run stocked us with rucksacks, coats and shoes for Jed. Dougie is still shoeless and Billy’s, bought at Easter, may have to last a little longer.

If you witness me having a nervous breakdown in a shoe shop later this week, keep walking, there’s nothing to see. . .


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Three-year-old miss driving me crazy

WHEN you have four children, people might assume that you have the solution to all parenting issues. Maybe more so when you parade yourself each week in the pages of a newspaper as someone who writes about parenting issues.

The stark fact is that as a parent, you never really have solution to problems that your kids throw at you.

Children go through phases as they grow. Sometimes difficult, drawn-out ones that drive you to distraction, and often completely different from any sibling who may have arrived on the planet earlier.

You might know a few tricks from experience which help, but ultimately, there’s no magic wand; no fairy godmother. (Although our kids do have someone they call their “Fairy Godmother,” who lives abroad and visits with armfuls of exotic presents, massive hugs and doting attention).

Bonnie goes her own way

Bonnie is three-years-old. She’s the only girl, and the fourth child.

And at the moment, she’s driving me up the wall. Forget the ‘Terrible Twos’, it should be the ‘terrible twos-and-threes-and-possibly-even-fours.’

Most of the time, she’s funny, bright and adorable to be around.

Sometimes, she can be a naughty little madam.

And it’s true that all the boys had their phases. Tantrums, rudeness, fighting, back-chat and disobedience, yes, been there, seen that.

Bonnie seems to be totally immune to my methods. The boys were usually aware when they’d crossed the line. For Bonnie, half the fun seems to be in jumping over it. For Bonnie, it seems the words “No,” and “Don’t” are heard instead as “Go ahead, of course you can.”

The books will tell you that you shouldn’t use negative words around kids, but that’s no good when they’re balancing on top of a stool on top of a beanbag to try to climb up a bookcase, or have worked out how to remove screw-top lids on everything from sauce bottles to shampoo. When they constantly try to wriggle out of your grasp when crossing roads, or run off in shopping centres, it’s not just exhausting, it’s dangerous.

Perhaps it’s not the kids. Perhaps it’s me. Perhaps I’ve just forgotten how nerve-shredding, ear-splitting, panic-inducing, repetitive and knackering having pre-schoolers can be.

One thing I do know, from experience, is that the best thing is to grin and bear it until she grows out of it . . . and/or the next issue comes along to distract everyone.

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Big prices for tiny clothes

 I CAN hardly believe how much girly-ness one small person can inflict  onto a family, but sure enough our daughter has us tripping over dolls and pink stuff at every turn.

A big shock to the system was discovering how much dolls clothes cost.

What an utter rip-off. £17.99 for a tiny plain doll’s dress and knickers? That’s more than I pay for clothes for the actual kids. And £5.99 for five doll-sized nappies? It costs less for a pack of 30-odd real ones!

When we finally had a daughter after three beloved sons, I thought we’d escape most of the uber-girl stuff by virtue of her being around boys all the time. Guaranteed tom-boy. None of this gender-stereotyping for my girl.

But since she’s met other girls ( apparently I don’t count), she’s become fixated by dolls, tea-sets and cleaning. So much for the liberation of women.

She’s recently been stripping her dolls of their boring babygros and wrapping them in blankets.

So when some birthday money arrived, we took her to buy some outfits for her dolls. Her 20 quid went on a multi-pack of three girl-doll outfits.

Problem is, one of her three dolls is called Ron.

When we got home we had a grand trying-on session, with me crossing my fingers that Baby Annabel, the chunkier of the three, would squeeze into snug jeans and a t-shirt.

Meanwhile, Baby Ron now sports a pair of pink joggers and a cap-sleeved top.

When I suggested that Baby Ron might actually now be a girl doll rather than a boy doll, she replied firmly: “No, he’s still a boy.” I sincerely hope she stays as non-judgemental and open-minded her whole life.

Having bleated to other parents about the price of dolls’ clothes, I heard two great tips:

The first is never to buy doll’s toys new, but to trawl eBay and car-boot sales for second-hand items. The other is to search charity shops for premature or under-weight baby clothes, which apparently fit most dolls just fine.

My own tip is to use grandma. My mother is a brilliant seamstress and first-class knitter. She makes jumpers for the boys that they actually wear, and very funky hats and ponchos for Bonnie. So I’m going to ask if she’ll make some clothes for the three dolls, Ron, Annabel and Vanessa.

I can see Ron now, in shirt and trousers made from granddad’s old clothes. If I can get her to knit Ron a cardie and make him a cap, it could even be a full-granddad outfit. Needles at the ready Mum?

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Do girls have more imagination than boys?

IT’S Bonnie’s third birthday this week. I know, time does pass scarily quickly.

And in the run-up, she seems to have gone completely bonkers. As well as ramping up her tantrum level to 11, she’s taken on several personas. She’s a hairdresser, a chef, a doctor and Tinkerbell the fairy, whenever the mood takes her.

Bonnie’s use of imaginative play is endless. And for us, it’s all new. The boys just didn’t do it. They’d never have thought to bring you a pretend cup of tea in a tiny plastic cup, or order you to present your ear to have pretend thermometer rammed in to check your temperature.

Yes, they did have a dressing-up box, but usually as an excuse to batter each other with toy swords, rather than actually imagine themselves as an alternate character.

The boys each had a favourite soft toy (Sick Monkey, Hippo and Rescue Bear), but rather than being part of their general play, they were only remembered if they were ill or we were going on holiday.

Bonnie has several soft toys who have to be positioned next to her at bedtime and individually kissed goodnight. Pom the ragdoll, the bears Fluffy and One-Eye, Lisa Simpson, Dora the Explorer and Peppa Pig cluster around her head while ‘Arfur’ Rabbit is her permanent side-kick.

Arfur gets brought to the breakfast table and is allowed to watch TV, while the other toys are left in bed.

I’m not sure if it’s a girly thing or a fourth-childy thing, but it’s fascinating for us as parents because we thought we’d seen it all.

Her favourite phrases at the moment seem to be: “Aww, isn’t that cute?” (something we certainly don’t say) and “You’re my best friend.” This latter one is a little disconcerting for our 20-something babysitter, Dougie’s 11-year-old-friend who sometimes gets a lift to school, and the postman, all of whom have had Bonnie swear her allegiance.

We’ve asked a few of her ‘best-friends’ from nursery over for her first non-family-only party, and she’s madly over-excited. Her brothers are already arguing about who will be responsible for the CD player during musical bumps. I think I may leave them to run the show. It’s going to be chaos anyway. Maybe I should have made it a fancy dress party?

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