My children surprise and amaze me on an almost daily basis.
I knew that (theoretically) they would not be babies forever and would grow into children and (deep, disbelieving breath) independent adults one day. I have been enjoying, for the most part, the blossoming of Five into a confident little person with her own unique thoughts and personality. But the other evening, after teeth had been brushed, clothes for the morning laid out and the lights in the bedroom dimmed, as I bent to kiss her goodnight she took me completely by surprise saying
“Just to let you know, Mum, I’ll be awake very late tonight because I have to teach school”
“School?” I said. “Who are you teaching?”
“All my animals, of course!”
It brought back so sharply the many nights that I had lain awake as a child conducting my own night classes with an array of stuffed animals and a few imaginary friends (some of whom I was intensely ambivalent about). It was not, as I recall, exactly a game. It was deadly serious to me and I would dole out lessons and discipline with a grave sense of duty and felt genuinely saddened when I was forced to punish anyone who was naughty. My favourite teddy, Huckle, was actually never naughty and always got top marks, but I reasoned that this was partly why I loved him best. There was an (imaginary) girl in pioneer garb, a little like Laura Ingalls, who was always in trouble and unfortunately had to be put in the corner for most of the evening. Most of the others plodded along and did as they were told. I was strict but fair and frequently received gifts from my pupils.
I wonder what happens in Five’s classroom? Is it anything like mine?
So funny and sweet to see yourself in your child.
Today was Sunday and Husband had very kindly planned to take us all for to lunch to a beautiful restaurant right on the beach where one can spot surfers, dolphins, pelicans and even the occasional sea lion in the water. It’s a favourite family treat, so it was somewhat of a surprise when we got into the car and Five asked where we were going, again, and then started loudly to complain.
She started off by saying that she didn’t like the restaurant.
Then she whined that she hated the beach.
Then she cried that she HATED sand and she DIDN’T WANT TO GO!
This went on for some time.
I pointed out to her that we were going, she usually did like the beach, we were going to the restaurant anyway and why not think of the french fries she was going to get to eat?
She cried angrily that she DIDN’T want lunch, she WASN’T hungry (she was) and she WASN’T going to have french fries or ANY FUN at ALL!
I said quietly that I could hear she was sad and having a bad day but I loved her anyway, even if she felt awful, and this was a terrible way to feel.
I reached into the back of the car and held her ankle (she wouldn’t hold my hand). She carried on whining and crying. Poor Two was optimistically trying to look at birds and diggers out of the window and point them out to her with zero positive response.
Husband and I looked at each other and he asked if we should turn around. I thought not, she’d either get over in a few minutes or we’d switch strategy from good cop to bad cop and tell her to suck it up and take one for the team (on the grounds that there is sympathy and understanding, and then there is letting a five year old ruin a family outing).
Suddenly, without warning, she said brightly
“Isn’t it great that the people who build roads remember to plant beautiful flowers beside them so we can all look at them and be happy? I love flowers, look Two! Look at that beautiful tree and the mountain!”
Husband and I looked warily at one another.
“Hm. That was quite a change” he said
“Yes, quite mercurial, isn’t she?” I replied. “Well, glad it’s sunny again! Not always easy to live with, but hugely rewarding”
He smiled at me tenderly, with a knowing look.