In the blood

by Mothership on January 10, 2010

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.



1 Liberty London Girl January 11, 2010 at 12:33 am

oh! Brilliant post my lovely. LLGxx ps I never taught school, but my sister did for HOURS on end

2 Lozzie January 11, 2010 at 1:25 am

Fantastic post, loads and loads of food for thought.

The whole process of children learning to deal with, put a name to, and express their emotions in an ‘acceptable’ way (and the definition of ‘acceptable’ is so highly subjective!) is probably one of the most fascinating things to watch as a parent, and often for me also the most frustrating.

And I suspect it is the thing that goes on for the longest, too. I think I myself, languishing now in my mid-forties, am STILL trying to deal with, put a name to and express my emotions in an acceptable manner..

3 London City Mum January 11, 2010 at 1:43 am

What amazes me is how children never forget anything (eg chocolate treats, rude words, bribery promises, etc you know what I mean) yet manage to have the attention span of a goldfish all at the same time.

Actually, that sounds like some of my former colleagues, so maybe it is not just inherent to 5-year-olds.


4 TheMadHouse January 11, 2010 at 2:47 am

A very timely post for me, as we are going through issues with mini and all I see is myself every time I look at him and my mother instead of being helpful is just smug, as she has been there and done that!!

5 nappyvalleygirl January 11, 2010 at 6:34 am

V funny and touching.

I used to love teaching school to my dolls and was convinced I was going to be a teacher (My mum was and sister now is, but I never went down that road!). The boys show no signs of teacher play yet but Littleboy 1 told me the other day that his Lego giraffe ‘has to go to work, because it’s Wednesday’.

6 GEekymummy January 11, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Lovely! My sister and I spent hours playing schools. We had a register of names and each had a vivid imaginary pupil associated with it. My sister actually became a teacher!

7 Brit In Bosnia January 12, 2010 at 2:52 am

Such a sweet post.

I worry about what traits my boys have inherited from us, but not as much as I worry about the traits we are inheriting from our parents!

8 Metropolitan Mum January 12, 2010 at 4:59 am

That’s scary. I don’t want my daughter to inherit those kind of traits of my personality! Maybe she turns out all zen and well balanced just like her dad? Here’s hoping.

9 Mothership January 12, 2010 at 9:06 am

I wonder exactly what percentage of us who were serious about playing school actually did become teachers?
I look at Five and fervently hope she finds someone as patient and understanding as Husband because she certainly knows how to throw a mood about. *ahem*

10 Brit In Bosnia January 13, 2010 at 1:54 am

There’s a meme for you over at mine. All about the story behind a song that you love…

11 Slummy Single Mummy January 13, 2010 at 4:54 am

Ah! I love it when my kids play schools :-)

It does seem to mainly involve lining up the animals and calling a register though, so maybe they are destined for a career involving a nice bit of paperwork!

12 shayma January 14, 2010 at 6:35 pm

oh mtff, i loved it! the fact that your daughter has so much of you in her. i like that your husband just looked at you lovingly. btw may i talk to Five? DOESNT LIKE THE BEACH? i’ll also offer her some sweeties, and help her teach. xoxo shayma
ps i cant remember when i started liking marzipan, i just did, bec my mum adored it. and i still do.

13 Mothership January 14, 2010 at 9:53 pm

B in B. I’ll do that meme as soon as I can settle on a song – it set me all a-flutter!
SlummySingleMummy. Do you think that it’s because the register is the only thing that sticks in their minds? Worrying..
Shayma. I am not that keen on the beach, either! I don’t mind walking on it for a bit, but there is just too much sand. I have not said this in her presence, but I have a horrible feeling she has picked this up anyway.. How funny about you and marzipan. Do you make little marzipan animals? I always loved the look of those but I can’t bear the taste.

14 Sally, Who's the Mummy? January 25, 2010 at 3:29 pm

For the last year or so I’ve regularly woken in the wee small hours to find Flea out of bed playing a variety of games with her soft toys. Schools is definitely a favourite, but other times she plays “performances” where each toy takes a turn doing a dance in front of all the others, who are lined up at the bottom of the bed.

There’s part of me thinks I should be terribly disciplinarian and send her back to bed, but I don’t – I think of it as her private time in her own world where she’s totally in control and mistress of the Universe. She just seems so happy that I don’t think I could bear to intervene.

Just so lovely to listen to in the darkness, isn’t it?

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