Dulcie, as a baby, was described by someone far wittier than I, as having ‘a whim of iron’. She still displays some pretty resolute behaviour but can be as flakey as pastry when the mood takes her. A wish to open a bottle of nail varnish and coat the scruffy little nails of a group of two friends and a neighbour’s toddler? Then she can spend ten minutes (which in a preschooler’s life is like a supereon) with her concentration-tongue poking out, sweaty palms twisting the lid and nostrils flared with the effort, until the silence and the smell cause me to run up the stairs and put a swift end to proceedings. Sadly only after twenty digits have been swathed in Hello Kitty pink. A long day, a slippery bit of jelly that won’t get on the spoon? Then she can curse jelly and renounce it after a nano-second of trying.
Himself the Elf is made from sterner stuff. He won’t allow obstacles to bend him from his path, whether they are physical (SHOVE goes the chair put in his way. PAH to the fence as he tries to slither underneath. UMPH to the door that has been shut on him) or his own limitations. There is now nothing that is out of reach, for he just climbs to get it. I honestly now find it simpler, easier and a darnsight less dangerous to hand over what he wants before he makes too much effort to get it (obviously, I don’t count knives, matches, medicines and the like under this as they’re dangerous, or dried apricots as too many have a predictable outcome and I’m the person who has to deal with it). Continue reading
Time has clearly moved on. Himself the Elf is a fully mobile – forwards, backwards, down and up. Especially up – little man-machine, busily Makaton-signing his way through life as he spots pictures of hippos and boats, and can make his more simple
wants known through very basic language (most frequently “more cheese” and “all, ALL” when offered a share of any food). Dulcie has recently reached the lofty age of four and is so terribly superior, it is hard to know what to say sometimes. Things that are now increasingly infra dig: biscuits that someone else has bitten first (fair game until recently, and eaten off the floor too, if not stopped in time); any help whatsoever in toilet matters; suggestions of clothes that can be worn, especially coats or cardigans; being told anything at all, ever, in any circumstances, unless her express permission has been given; and eating any meal without the prompt Hurry up, please and Could you please stop talking for a few minutes and finish your food? at least nine hundred times. Continue reading
Each week comprises of (I’m using a calculator and still my tongue pokes out of corner of mouth in concentration) 168 hours, of which 15 of them are Dulcie-free. Put like that, it doesn’t seem much but at the start of half term, it seemed to be a yawning mass of extra minutes that must be filled to the satisfaction of both Dulcie and Himself the Elf, without the house descending into mindless squalor. “What are we doing today?” Dulcie would ask at breakfast. “Is this a preschool day or a weekend?” Neither, I would think, sometimes quite desperately. And good question, what are we going to do today? But the days have whizzed by, with Halloween celebrated, some cold time in the playground endured and a search for a particular item at the library all punctuated by the gentle narrative of Himself the Elf having a burst ear drum and a reaction to his penicillin. There have been rivers of snot from both children, which Dulcie can sometimes wipe for herself and Himself the Elf never can. My jeans look as though a colony of slugs has been crawling all over them. We have a large stash of baked good including cup cakes and jam tarts, and no-one really seems to want to eat them. Is this connected to the snot of the chef? Probably. Continue reading
At the moment, if Dulcie has it or does it, Himself the Elf wants to, too. He is like the most slavish follower of fashion, with his big sister as his copy of Vogue. This causes some problems as the vast amount of her preferences are suitable for her age (well, tolerably. Her penchant for abysmally tasteless fantasy fairies hardly thrills me to the core but I tell myself it is Just a Phase) but not so much for his. He is a munching, tearing, flinging sort of child, whereas Dulcie has carefully looked after her possessions. She is fastidious, particularly with her own safety, whereas he is a cavalier and covered with bumps. If he were a car, you’d honestly think about getting him resprayed.
Yesterday, before preschool, Dulcie had donned a frothy cerise princess dress over her pinafore and was demanding my immediate attention to allow her to go to the loo in this absurd concoction. Himself the Elf was pootling around, eyeing the buggy with suspicious thoughts, fearing he was about to be contained. My choice: him screaming for five minutes while he is in the still pushchair, or him continuing to roam as I played toilet attendant. I decided on the latter.
Happy silence from him, until I noticed he was ransacking Dulcie’s lunch box, and had had some of her sandwiches and a big bite out of an unpeeled clementine. Cue manic sandwich-making as though I were on The Generation Game or something, putting it right before we RAN to preschool. Their wants and needs are almost always at odds.
There is, I suspect, a pinch point in everyone’s day when they wish they were someone else or somewhere else. Or both. It normally occurs about the same time every day, whether it is a hellish commute, a frantic deadline rush, or children’s dinner time. Oh dinner time. At some point between 4.45pm and 5.05pm, when the food for the children is practically ready, every single day, they will both be shouting, shrieking, grizzling at the table, and I long for the days that putting one’s head in the oven was a solution to such woe.
Dulcie will be in tears because:
- She was enjoying a game which I have, with unspeakable rudeness, interrupted
- She has not approved the menu for the day, as though she were a tiny Rebecca and I her giant Mrs Danvers
- I am taking too long to serve the food i.e. more than a hundreth of second has elapsed between her bottom connecting with the chair and the food being put in front of her
Himself the Elf will be bellowing and lowing because:
- I have strapped him in a chair and prevented him licking the television or trying to plunge head first down a step onto a stone floor
- He is hungry. Or not hungry. Or tired. Or not tired.
- Dulcie is doing it, so why shouldn’t he?
I long to be the sort of woman Continue reading
As I mentioned previously, Himself the Elf is being trained in the art of sleep. He is not, so far, a natural but progress is being made. He rails against this regime of no feeding to sleep, and I am keeping my clothes fully buttoned before he is placed in his cot. Sometimes he’s fine with this (i.e. a bit disgruntled but lies down and goes to sleep) and other times he is apoplectic with baby rage and could give Dylan Thomas’ father a personal demonstration of how to rage, rage against the dying of the light and the lowering of the blackout blind. Continue reading
“I have winned you!” Dulcie gleefully caroled as she reached the bottom of the stairs. I winced. Yes, the grammar is awful and of course it isn’t really a fair competition when she goes down fancy free, while I had himself the Elf under one arm, the nappy bucket in the crook of the other and an empty cup in my hand. But I am irked by the fact that everything has to be a competition, from who gets to press the button for the pedestrian crossing when out with her friend to who has the longest skirt, the biggest apple, the loudest fart. And if she isn’t the ‘winner’ of these inane competitions, you’d honestly have thought someone had told her a life hewing coal and without any birthday parties awaited her. Devastation, tears, snot.
“Would you rather have the biggest stick or would you rather have a good friend?” I try to reason after she meets up with a pal she’s not seen for over six months and immediately falls out with them over some dog-chewed sycamore branch you’d frankly have to pay me to touch, but which both children have become passionate rivals for.
“The STICKKKKKKKK!” is the predictable but highly unsatisfactory answer. Continue reading