Friday, 30 December 2011

making space

I have just dispatched the Engineer and Snooks on a mission designed to keep them out for an hour or two so that I can do this … whatever this is.

It started off as a record for Snooks of his early years so that when he grows older he can see how it all began. Me, I had to guess.

But it has also come to provide a lacuna for me in which to observe and reflect on the tidal wave of my daily life, which is how being Snooks’ mother feels.

I understand that ‘spirited’ toddlers often turn into charming teenagers, the theory being that god only sends you one tsunami per child. The Engineer recently showed me a string on Mumsnet of fraught mothers of untenable three-year-olds delighted to have found each other.

Yesterday as we left a restaurant where we had lunched with a bachelor friend of ours, I commended Snooks on his good behaviour.

I caught the look of astonishment on the friend’s face. Snooks had shouted demands for beans on toast, banged his cutlery on his plate, wolfed his lunch and then vanished up the stairs to the Residents Only lounge just as the main course arrived. He finally settled with a toy tractor prostrate in the doorway where both customers and staff had to step over him to enter and leave the dining room. But for us this was pretty much exemplary behaviour. I know, to some – mainly Jo Frosters and people with daughters – it sounds cowardly. Another person recently told me that I had to ‘break his will’ before revealing that his own will-breaking, paragon-making parenting had been done with the help of a wooden spoon. But the truth is, I don’t expect Snooks to sit quietly at a table while adults eat and talk. I think it would be unnatural for a three- year-old to do so. Consequently, on the whole, we don’t eat in restaurants.

Anyway the mission, which I dreamed up in the early hours as my brain rummaged around trying to create a snow-hole for myself (from tsunami to avalanche – it’s that time of year isn’t it?) comprises two parts; Part One – to take Snooks’ buggy to the dump and hurl it onto a pile of junk. Trust me, it is for the best. It has no brake, it was an emergency charity shop buy when the last one’s brake fell off, and most of all, he hates it. Plus it frees up room in the shed for – you know what – the beloved skateboard which Santa was crazy enough to bring despite warnings about the many broken bones likely to occur as a result. Out with the old (babyish, restrictive, dull) in with the new (grown up, unrestrictive and very, very cool), and all that.

Part Two continued the theme. Clutched in his hand, as I waved them off, was a little brown purse shaped like a dog containing a large chocolate gold coin and a real, slightly battered genuine five pound note. I had to stop Snooks tossing away the real cash as he struggled to get to the chocolate but managed to explain that the readies had been sent to him by a clever kind auntie to spend on something he chose. (The Engineer and I had discussed the likely obstacles to this mission such as wanting to buy a drum kit – his latest obsession - and we had agreed that the purchase should roughly fall within his budget as our responsibility in the current economic climate was to teach him all that stuff about coats and cloth. Plus it is actually more fun that way). So off they went leaving me here in the house alone to reflect on how it all went.

I think he loved it. I am not sure he believes in Santa but went along with the whole thing for our sakes; he shouted out ‘This is a waste of time’ during Christmas Day Mass to which most of the children in the congregation gave a silent Amen; he was as excited about giving his Daddy a present as he was about opening his own; he has walked by the sea twice - once on the south coast and once on the east coast - since Christmas Day and wanted to go in both times; he has gnawed the head of a chocolate Santa but otherwise survived largely on a diet of yoghurt and toast since Christmas Eve and he charmed the Regent Street shoppers with his Santa-hat clad rendition of ‘All I Want for Christmas Is Toys’ during our trip to see the lights.

Not surprisingly the excitement of the build up to Christmas may have somewhat overtaken the reality of day, which after all amounts to some new stuff, some treats to eat and very little sleep, leaving a void where the all the twinkly magic is supposed to be.

But enough about me. Snooks took it all in his stride and is gliding into 2012 with no elbow pads, no buggy and his first taste of financial independence.

Bring it on.

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