Monthly Archives: March 2012

Once upon a time…

We are reading a bed time book, slowly. Long gone are the days that I have the time or the energy to explore every page, first reading the words as they have been written, then adding my own often educationally-enriching embellishments (“Oh, doesn’t the squirrel look happy in his nest… which is called a drey, by the way,”), then pointing out interesting things in the accompanying illustrations (“Can you see the fly on the cow’s tail? The cow looks very annoyed!”). That particular halcyon vision of pro-active parenting has slowly been eroded in the face of day-end fatigue, the impending household chores still awaiting me downstairs and the lure of an evening free from Fireman Sam, sticker charts and songs about bogeys. Now I am thrilled to get through the two books without interruption, deviation or repetition. I have even been known on the odd occasion when it is getting late to engage in a small amount of sleight of hand and turn over two pages at once. Paul bloody Daniels has nothing on me when there is a glass of wine and dinner waiting for me downstairs.

But tonight, E is in one of his questioning moods, and as the turn of a page reveals a rocket, he asks: “Is the moon on this planet?”

I break off from the story and pause. My brain pursues two thoughts: How to explain the moon and the planets simply to a three year old, versus: how can I satisfy his curiosity in the quickest time possible and get him into bed without further questions about the solar system that I am woefully under-qualified to answer?

“No, the moon is not on this planet. It spins round the Earth.”

I know this will not be a satisfactory answer and I quickly recommence the story, tapping the page to try and divert his attention away from the topic of astronomy.

“Why does it spin?” Oh bloody hell. Where is Brian Cox when you need him?

“I don’t really know,” I reply. E looks at me. It is hard not to interpret his slightly disappointed look as further realisation that his mummy is less font-of-all-knowledge and towering-edifice-of-answers-to-everything and more slightly crummy-comprehensively-educated-dimwit.

“And anyway,” he continues, no doubt storing away his parental-induced disillusionment ready to be brought up again as Evidence Number 32c in an argument ten years from now, “who does make all the pavements?”

Brilliant. We are now literally and metaphorically back on safe ground and I sigh with relief. I can bullshit my way round the process of paving slabs, concrete and kerbs as good as the next parent, throwing in workmen, hard hats and cement mixers along the way with gay abandon. It is as I am drawing some parallels between this and his builders set downstairs, replete with jack hammer and tarmac, that I realise I have been duped. I don’t think E is remotely interested in the manufacture of pavements. He is simply interested in not finishing the story book, thus not being made to get into bed. Damnation. We should have stuck to the solar system. I’d have been a third of a way through my glass of red by now.

It’s a time thing…

When your entire existence in this world of ours does not yet reach 1500 days, I guess it  should come as no surprise that the concept of time lacks a little perspective to a three and a half year old. Particularly when I play so fast and loose with the notion of time when it comes to communicating with my offspring.

“Just wait a minute, please,” roughly means ‘I will get round to getting that toy off the shelf sometime in the next quarter of an hour, first having been painfully distracted by stepping on a Lego brick and debating if I should call an ambulance.

“Put your shoes on, we’re going now,” tends to mean ‘I am starting the shoes-on topic now as we need to leave the house within the next forty minutes’.

“I am just going to quickly phone grandma,” usually translates as ‘now might be a good time to start that 500 piece jigsaw, this could take some time’.

“We’re leaving soon, so don’t run off,” can mean exactly that, but can also mean we’ll be leaving in another ten minutes as I bump into someone I know and have a quick chat.

“I’ll come and check on you in five minutes, so try and go to sleep,” always means that I have the dinner to cook, or the washing to put on, so don’t expect me to check in on you until I suddenly remember I promised to do so, in which case I’ll be up again about half past nine.

So unsurprisingly, E has very little concept of time. At the mention of an activity to happen at some future point, his sole clarification will be: “This day, mummy?” Despite a daily evening routine of bath, stories and bed, any mention of what we will do the next day at this juncture prompts the same question: “This day, mummy?”  Yes, I am tempted to say, whip off those pyjamas and grab your scooter, we are going for a moonlit play at the local ramps.  But for a toddler who lives inexorably in the present, experiencing each moment as it arrives then releasing it from his little sweaty palms as he grabs the next one, I guess a trip to the ramps at 7pm is no more bizarre than having to wait until… well, to wait until an unspecified, unquantifiable and unfathomable time that is apparently called tomorrow. Whatever that is, when it’s at home.  

And in a foolish attempt to explain to E when his next birthday is, trying to represent the idea of six months in terms that he will understand, there was an alarming moment when I thought his head might explode. It turned out he had a sneeze brewing, and the ensuing slug of mucus that flopped across his mouth and chin luckily provided sufficient diversion that all talk of future birthdays were mercifully dropped.

And when it comes to time, I appreciate that I expect the impossible. “Can I have my pudding please, mummy?” E asks. Or: “Can I have the television on now?”, or “I want to play on your phone, mummy,” I inevitably reply: “Be patient, please.”

Patience. A notion that only works if coupled with a sense of time passing, and an understanding that waiting is a finite activity. In E’s mind, I am not sure either apply. It has to happen NOW, or it will never happen. Mind you, I know some adults who have yet to master the art of patience. The only discernible difference being that most adults do not resort to asking “can I have it now?” approximately every eight seconds which escalates into full-on whinging and a few foot stamps to reinforce the point, until you give up what you are doing and fulfil his request. I realise now that my request to be patient is not only futile but no doubt highly irritating for a three year old. However, E might be crap at grasping the notion of time, but turning tables seems to becoming quite his specialist subject.

“Come on E,” I implored him earlier in the week. “Put that down, it’s time to go up for bath.”

He glances up briefly from his digger and sighs. “Be patient, mummy.”

I was, for once, right. That is highly fucking irritating.

What’s a six sommender, mummy?

E and I are at the table, as he eats his tea. The radio is on in the background as it is news time, providing me with a pretence that I am keeping up with what is going on outside of recent plot lines of Bob the Builder and improving my knowledge of the world.

E and I chat about nonsense, mainly concerning Spiderman or enquiries from E as to how tall he might grow, both recent hot topics, before there is a lull in the conversation. Our ears drift to the radio, as a story is being relayed about a man suing for defamation of character over a tabloid’s description of him as a sex offender. I am only partially paying attention, but unfortunately, E is obviously concentrating hard.

“What’s a six sommender, mummy?” asks E as he takes a bite of toast.

Oh my lord. For one crazy, crazy moment, my brain starts to process how to explain what a sex offender is, a by-product of that parental habit of explaining everything, from where electricity comes from to how the wind makes the clouds move. Quickly I realise the inappropriateness of what I am considering, which moves my brain to stage two: a general state of flummoxedness. This may well not be a proper word, but it certainly is a proper state of mind as a parent of a toddler.

I sigh. It’s been a long day. The highlights of which include a sit-down protest outside Tesco for reasons that never became precisely clear but ended in me carrying E under my arm like a second hand rug back to the car, a teeth-grindingly irritating go-slow when asked to put his shoes on culminating in his somewhat unnecessarily supercilious plea of “be patient, mummy,” and an insistence that throwing toys to within six foot of the toy chest does, in fact, constitute tidying up.

And now he wants to know what a sex offender is. All I want is a bloody large glass of wine. Neither of us, I fear, will get what we want out of this. I have stalled for so long trying to get my way round the question without resorting to the rather pathetic ‘I don’t know’ response that he asks again.

“What’s a six cementer?”

Brilliant. His mis-remembering of the word has given me a way out. “Ah,” I reply. “A six cementer. It’s like a cement mixer, but it mixes lots of cement at once. So you can glue bricks together. Six, in fact.”

E takes another bite of toast. I wait with baited breath, in case he follows up with a supplementary question, seeking further clarification. These secondary questions, asked with the innocence of an enquiring three year old’s mind have a habit of exposing bullshit with the accuracy of a trained marksman. But thankfully, no further question is forthcoming, mainly due to a large mouthful of peanut buttered toast sticking his tongue to the roof of his mouth.

I casually saunter over to the radio and turn it off. That’s enough bloody self improvement for one day. Next time, I’ll stick to Bob the bloody Builder.