“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
Dulcie and Himself the Elf have reached a new level of familiarity with each other and it isn’t just drinking the bath water that the other has peed in. They’ve perfected winding each other up to either such hysterical laughter that one or the other topples over, and as a neat counterpoint, have learned that they can reduce the other to tears of rage in an instant.
“He’s so funny! I love him so much that I’m going to give him a big squeeze,” croons Dulcie, grasping Himself the Elf firmly and making him sit down. He has spent the last minute trying unsuccessfully to reach up to a previously unattainable point on a bookcase and just as his fingers brush the shelf, she has calculatingly bumped him back down to the floor and is using his rage as a distraction for her boredom. But it works both ways. Himself the Elf may be charmingly silly but he isn’t stupid. He submits to the cuddle, all the while stuffing a huge handful of her treasured ballet skirt into his slobbery mouth. A muffled “Haaaaa!” can be heard from him, then a shriek as his sister notices. The tutu-clad child can certainly move fast when she needs to. Continue reading
In 2008, I knew everything about babies and children. I had a nice, neat set of theories of how my children would never eat sugary food and would only play with wooden toys. They would be bilingual (which would have been a miracle considering I speak halting, holiday French as my only alternative to English) and because of the gender neutrality of their upbringing, they’d adore train and babies, fairies and construction vehicles, aeroplanes and princess.
Then I had Dulcie and realised that I knew nothing about having children and that in fact, they are not little blobs of Play Doh to be formed by their parents, but are complete individuals with their own inclinations. You can add a veneer of civilisation, but you can’t flatter yourself that you’re much more than an influence. You can enthuse about Brio to your daughter as many times as you like and exclaim “Look! A tractor!” whenever you see one, but that doesn’t mean that aged three they won’t be dressed in an eye-wateringly cerise Disney princess dress, clutching a Barbie-like Aurora doll and feigning an American accent. Continue reading
“I’m doing a grand yeti!” trilled Dulcie as she threw some rather Martha Graham-esque moves around the bedroom. “And I am as light as a fairy,” as she crashed into a chair. I smiled indulgently. I like this game; I am the appreciative audience and get to sit down. Himself the Elf is captivated by his sister’s moves and has pulled himself into a standing position leaning on the chest of drawers, all the better to squeal his encouragement to her. Peace?
Shattered. “HE can’t do ballet! He is bouncing along and only girls can do ballet,” bosses Dulcie. No-one can do self-righteousness in quite the style of a three year old, I find. “Anyone can do anything,” I pointlessly say, knowing it will be disregarded instantly. “I am taking off my tutu,” she declares. Helpfully, it is an imaginary tutu, so my assistance isn’t needed. “Shall we read Dogs Don’t Do Ballet?” I suggest, keeping in the theme and trying to be a good mother. “Just let me put the Elf to bed first…” Continue reading