Sunday, March 22, 2009

2009's first picnic: got soaked

"Spring is here", as ThingOne sings pretending, of course, she is Lola in the episode "I Just Can't Stop Hiccuping".

ThingOne's taking quite an interest in the daffodils, the other blooming flowers, the buds on trees etc. With her new found knowledge of death she's asking what will die and what won't ("Will our bath mat die? Is that a living thing?") and, so far, seems merely interested, not distressed by the thought of death. I try to be philosophical with her ("Imagine if no one died ThingOne - the world would be full up!") The other day I told her that whilst people are no longer around when they die we can still remember them in our heads. "In our heads? Do we eat them?" Best to stick to the basics for the moment.

Seizing on a sunny day, after playing and doing jobs in the garden this morning the four of us went to Wimpole Hall Farm for a Mother's Day treat. (It might have been even more of a treat for Anne if just ThingOne, ThingTwo and I had gone, but I think Anne enjoyed this too.)

We saw pigs with piglets, sheep with lambs, cows, chickens, goats, horses. i.e. farm animals. And ThingOne got to groom a donkey (not in a dodgy, internet chat-room way). We had our first picnic of the year (here's to many more to come) and ThingOne got to see different types of animal poo and identify male and female animals.
L: "That sheep has udders - it's a girl!"
L: "Bulls are boys, so where's the bull's winkie?"
S: "Erm, it's that thing underneath"
ThingOne then bent down for ages trying to embarrass us in front of the other visitors, making sure she'd seen said winkie and wasn't mistaking it for something else, and that everyone around knew she'd seen it and correctly identified it.

As a National Trust property, it's not cheap to get in, but they have two playgrounds, so we probably got our money's worth. After a tiring but fun five or so hours in the farm we made our way back to the car. As we passed some temporary toilets in a portocabin I asked ThingOne if she needed the loo. She's never one to pass up trying out a public toilet she's not previously used, so she jumped at the chance.

I partly ruined the day at this point.

I couldn't work out the taps as ThingOne went to wash her hands. I pulled it one way, and pushed it the other and it wouldn't work. I pulled a bit harder, and it broke off in my hand. Water sprayed out all over me, soaking me, the floor, and some men at the urinals. Whoops. I tried to stem the flow but couldn't. I tried to reattach the tap but couldn't. I searched around for a stopcock to no avail. At this point I realised ThingOne was screaming. I turned to see she was standing directly in the trajectory of the water spray. I told her to stand aside, where she'd be dry, but she was too busy being sad and wet. I moved her away and she went, dripping, to find her mum as I shoved some paper towels into the hole to try to stop the water spraying everywhere. Eventually a member of staff appeared (one of the guys I'd soaked had gone to get someone). He knew less than I did about plumbing, but I was happy that at this point I had passed the baton to someone with authority, and skulked out of the portocabin, apologising as I left.

ThingOne was pretty upset, but soon recovered. Hopefully this won't scar her, and it'll be the memory of poo, udders, winkies and donkey grooming that she takes home with her.

Some photos. A pinic on a groundsheet, despite the fact that we own two or three picnic blankets. ThingOne catches some rays:

ThingTwo's standing is getting better each day:

We find somewhere to keep ThingOne while we nip off for a fag:

ThingOne gets our money's worth at the playground. This crows' nest was frighteningly high (for me):
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How did we get here already?

ThingOne's been thinking about babies recently, as a few people we know are having them. Yesterday at nursery she told her friend that she (ThingOne) is just a little girl but when she's big she'll be a mummy. Today she probed Anne...

L: Do all mummies have babies?
A: Yes, all mummies have babies, but not all ladies have babies.
L: Why not?
A: Maybe they don't want babies.
L: How do the babies get in there?

Oh God. Already?

A: In where?
L: In their tummies?
A: The daddies put a seed in there and it grows into a baby.

ThingOne lifts her T-shirt and points to her tummy.
L: Daddies put a seed in there??
A: Yes.
L: I don't think daddies go inside.
A: Erm, [sings] There were five in the bed and the little one said...

ThingOne was, fortunately, distracted. But it's unlikely to be the end of it.

On a different subject, spring seems to be coming and ThingTwo had fun in the garden today:

Sunday, March 01, 2009

A fairly shocking realisation for a three year old

We've been kind of shielding ThingOne from death. I mean the subject of death, obviously we've been sheilding her from actual death by trying to teach her road sense, keeping toasters away from the bath, etc.

We've avoided a few questions here and there, mainly when ThingOne asks where my dad is. We thought this was for the best, but people have told us that this isn't helpful and kids are pretty resilient when it comes to this sort of thing.

I'd been on the side of a woman in this Jon Ronson article, who tells her child 'You won't ever die' to which he responds 'What about you and daddy? Will either of you ever die?' And she says, 'No. We will never die, either. None of us will ever die.'

It sounded fair enough to me. Why would you subject a young child to the truth. It's just not necessary.

More and more of ThingOne's stories feature death in some, usually tangential, way as she gets older, and we've just been ignoring it, and changing a few words in the stories here and there. Kids tend to take in only what they understand so the questions never really came up, but we've been wondering lately how to answer the questions when they come.

A death in the family last week made us bite the bullet and go for it. We decided to broach the subject with dinosaurs, talking about how they lived on the planet before people did, and they all died out. I talked to her about this a bit, and she seemed not very interested. I then got a bit tangled in knots trying to explain how we evolved from creatures that were around at that time, and how we shared a common ancestor with chimpanzees. This was a mistake and I soon left the evolution propaganda behind to concentrate just on the death thing.

A mention of it here and there over a week, and it seemed to be going fine. I'd rather she hadn't chosen a Bambi story book from the library on Sunday, as I didn't want to have her reading about mummies dying, but I figured she's got to face the cold harsh facts one day and at just-over three she's been coasting on Easy Street far too long.

On Saturday evening we put on a Charlie and Lola episode in which their pet mouse dies ("I Will Not Ever Never Forget You, Nibbles"). It's an impressive bit of children's TV. They held a small funeral for their pet, and we wanted to explain to ThingOne where we'd be going when we go to funeral on Monday (the kids are staying with my mum). ThingOne seemed fine with this and accepted that the mouse had died.

This was easy, I thought.

As I put her to bed that night we talked through her day, which is our nightly routine and is either a good way to end the day, or, on her part, a delaying tactic to hold off bed time for a little longer. Suddenly, as we got to the Charlie and Lola bit the penny dropped. Her tone of voice changed to one of mild panic.

"Do people die?" she asked, quickly sitting upright.

Gulp. I don't think I've ever seen a leap of understanding manifest itself so clearly.

"Yes ThingOne, they do. When people get old they die". I figured I'd leave young deaths, murder, massive disasters and accidents to another day. I wonder if Charlie and Lola have done episodes covering those?

ThingOne burst into tears and I fought to hold back mine. "But I don't want you to die Daddy". She threw her arms around me.

"It's OK ThingOne, I won't die for a long long time."

"But who will drive the car if you die?"

What's this? Is this my role in this house?

"Who will put me in my car seat if you die Daddy", she continued, twisting the knife as I realised I have been reduced to a chauffeur in my own home. She did then come up with a more generic "Who will look after me?" but it was clear the car was her main concern here. It's not as though we go out in the car very often. We chose to live near a city so we wouldn't have to. And her mum can drive!

It was a very sad moment for me as I realised a pleasant obliviousness had disappeared for ever, and three seems like a very young age for this to dawn on her (but then I have no point of reference). One of the things I've found most enjoyable about having a toddler is teacher her things, but this wasn't enjoyable at all.

I figured she may be awake and upset for a while now, but in fact she quickly calmed down and talked about her bath and bedtime stories, so all was well.

She's not fretted about death too much today, and asked reasonable questions when Anne explained to her today that someone had died and we were going to the funeral.

I'm sure we're worrying too much about the impact of this on ThingOne, though I suppose it's natural to want to shield a child from the sadder things in life. My guess is, as with many things, as the younger sibling ThingTwo will have a much less controlled introduction to the concept. I expect it will be ThingOne who tells her that people die, and that her dad is little more than someone to drive them about.