Several conversations with E recently has made me think about the control that parents have over their young offspring. We control what they eat, what they watch, what they do – and more fundamentally, what they believe. And then slowly, whilst our backs are turned picking up tiny pieces of a rocket or running them back and forth to nursery, we don’t.
E is a case in point. Being of the male persuasion, asking him what his day at nursery was like provokes a monosyllabic “good” if I am lucky, or a request to turn the volume up on the car stereo if I am not. He has friends who I don’t know, he eats things I am unaware of and I only glean what activities he does when I draw on my Clouseau-like powers of deduction and spot a splash of paint on his top, a smear of beans encrusted his lip, or sand pours from his shoe on removal. There is a portion of his life of which I am ignorant, and it suddenly dawned on me as I took a break from picking up sodding bits of rocket that this portion will only increase as time goes on.
He now says things that I know did not come from M and I, such as pink is yukky and is a girl’s colour. To be fair, pink is yukky, he is right, but I always ensured that my hatred of pink and general girliephobia remains unspoken in front of him. And continuing his obsession with death, he announced yesterday that heaven is where you go when you die. I know for a fact that we did not discuss this with him, as I am yet neither intellectually or emotionally prepared for the inquisition into what happens when we expire, mainly because four year olds never bloody know when to let it lie. I mumbled something about heaven being a place that some people believe is where you go when you die, then asked him if he wanted the volume up on the car stereo.
One of the aforementioned conversations made me ponder the outside influences that are now having a defining influence on my son and his take on the world. A chat about milk teeth falling out led to a discussion about what you do with the tooth.
“You put it under your pillow for the tooth fairy, don’ t you, mummy?” E asked.
“And the tooth fairy leaves a coin for you?”
“Only if you are very good.” Ha, never miss a bloody trick, me.
There is a long pause. “Is it you that really leaves the coin, mummy?”
Goddamn. Who the hell told him that the tooth fairy doesn’t exist? I mentally oscillated between trying to keep up the pretence or telling the truth. I probably could have persuaded him of the existence of that winged coin bringer – until he had at least lost one tooth – if I tried extremely hard and was on top of my lying game but really, what was the point?
I have the sense that I am living on borrowed time with my control. And when I mean control, let’s face it, I mean lies. He has already rumbled that if the light is flashing on the top of the Bob the Builder ride, I must be lying when I say it is broken. It will only be a matter of time before he realises that if he doesn’t stop mucking about on the back seat of the car and sit down, then a policeman won’t actually come and put him in jail.
Worryingly, it seems that I may have to stop the lies in the face of those evil outside influences that will soon tell him that Santa does not exist and that it is actually quite unlikely that I am not carrying any money and so probably could buy him a magazine. Actually, on reflection, no. I just need to get better lies or better parenting skills. Actually, let’s just stick to better lies.