Friday, December 12, 2008

Very Good Mothers

My 4 yr old daughter is trying to get a few things straight....

Question Number 1. "Is blanket a rude word?" she asked me the other day.

Completely out of context, she had for some reason, asked me (whilst we were cooking) if she could have a blanket. Somewhat confused, I must have frowned, because she then asked if it was a rude word. I realised again, how much toddlers read faces with their limited language & comprehension skills. I gather this is why children hate masks, and often clowns, because they can't read any visual clues. I had frowned, (I do when I'm thinking), so she assumed I was cross because she had said something naughty I guess.

This reminded me too of an incident with my son , aged 7 at the time, who was being bullied by an exquisitely beautiful little blonde, tanned Dutch girl. A little girl he adored from afar & desperately wanted to be friends with. He was very confused by her behaviour & said when I tried to discuss it with him;
"But Mummy how can someone SO pretty be so nasty?" Ah, there's a lesson for life. A good one to learn early I guess.

Question Number 2. from my 4 y-o:

"When you were little were you a boy?"

I don't know what prompted this question, but it propelled me straight back 35 years to the skinny little blonde girl with short hair, my childhood self, who was often mistaken for a boy. Little did my daughter realise this innocent question raised all those insecurities & emotions as if they were yesterday. I was immediately 7 yrs old again & in the showers at a campsite.

I overheard a girl asking her mum why that boy (me) had gone in the ladies' showers. I remember digging out the one skirt I had taken on holiday with me & wanting to wear it every day. Can't remember if I did or not. Probably not. Would have attracted too much attention as to why I was doing that.

Sometimes it was old ladies, sometimes it was other children. I hated it. In my mind it was because I had short hair. I never actually thought I did look like a boy.

I always wanted long hair but my mum didn't like little girls having long hair & chewing it or tossing their hair around. Now I'm a mother I'm exactly the same. I don't like it either. I have just taken my daughter to the hairdresser & had 2 inches cut off her hair to stop her chewing it (& to get rid of the knots she won't allow me to tease out). I have long hair by the way. Have done ever since I left home. Pyschologists would probably have something to say about that...

It happened as late as aged 11, being taken for a boy. But then I took a while turning into a woman too. I can still feel the ruler the boys in secondary school used to run down my back in order to announce to the class that I didn't wear a bra (a sure sign that you were still a little girl amongst your womanly classmates).

Still no one would mistake my 4 y-o for a boy, way too much pink going on for that. Perhaps that's where I went wrong, I pre-date the "If you're a girl everything must be pink" phenomenon. And as for boys with rulers, well she'd probably just tell them she was a feminist and that she'd burnt her bra.

My son is the sensitive one who will fall foul of pretty, but malicious girls, my daughter will stand up for herself, whilst wearing pink of course.

I am also trying to teach my daughter about privacy. When we go to the loo, together of course, I help her, then I go. Usually at exactly the wrong moment she decides that, as she is now dressed & ready, she will open the door & leave. I lose track of the number of times I have said,
"Don't open the door till I've been myself" Recently, as I was, on autopilot, saying "don't open the door...." in a crowded 'Ladies', she interrupted in her clear, ringing tones (I think is how it's put), saying:

"I know mum, because NO ONE wants to see you naked"........

Another area of permanent rumination, is the discussion of fairy tales. My daughter was asking me a question about Cinderella & the Fairy Godmother which began:

"You know when Cinderella's 'Very Good Mother' comes in and waves her magic wand....?"

A mishearing, but obviously one that made perfect sense to my daughter. In fairy tales you get Very Good Mothers, with magic & sparkle, capable of making all your wishes come true.

In real life you get Run of the Mill Mothers, like me, who make you eat your vegetables, won't let you wear nail polish, let alone glass slippers, (or anything with a heel) & even forget to put money under your pillow when a tooth falls out (or remembers 2 days later).

Big brothers, on the other hand, are evidently amazing. In real life, not fairy tales:

My daughter commented admiringly the other day, of her brother, with a wistful sigh "A is SO amazing"

"Why?" I asked, curious though not in disagreement.

"He can do so many things like ride a bike with only 2 wheels, put a film on the t.v, and speak in different languages"
(she must mean English & American as his Albanian consists of about 6 fairly useless phrases),

"AND...... (pause for emphasis) he can even wipe his own bottom".

So, the dizzy aspirational heights of being 8.

"Well" I said "What can you do? I'm sure you can do amazing things too."

She thought for a moment and then said:

"Well I can do a few tricks on the trampoline, get the cereals out in the morning, eat lots of fruit, write my own name & dance."

I'd say that's quite a respectable list for a 4 y-o.

And me? Well, I can, 'fairy godmother-like', magically turn from a 'boy' into a woman, & a mother ( & even look the part). I can go to the loo, whilst in full readiness that the door will be opened at any moment, and I can look like a rather tired & cross mother on the outside, whilst being quite nice on the inside.


Iota said...

I'm not sure I like the idea that a Very Good Mother is all about tinsel and sparkle and granting instant wishes. But I suppose from a child's perspective...

And do you think your daughter has been watching tv from the 1970s, when "blankety-blank" was a sort of cover word when a rude word needs to be bleeped out?

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

I quite agree Iota, it's a lot to live up to, and I wouldn't want to anyway. But I'm sure a child would like it to be about granting their wishes. 'No' is in far too much of my vocabulary for me to be a Fairy Godmother. I certainly wasn't implying this is what a Good Mother is,did it come acros slike that? & I hope my daughter doesn't really think so either.

She has been watching tv from the 70s actually, but only Frank Spencer in "Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em" (appropriately enough) & the Two Ronnies opticians sketch and "Fork 'Andles' sketch. Considered essential education by my husband. (needless to say they were way over her head but her brother loves them so she 'pretends' to find them funny too.

nappy valley girl said...

Ah, privacy and the loss of innocence. At what point do you have to explain that certain things just aren't done in public? My boys are always swinging the door open as I am sitting on the loo in cafes, restaurants etc. And, the older one has a disconcerting habit of putting his hands down my top and having a feel around! He did it last night when I had a friend visiting, and she thought it was hilarious! I think if I was a Very Good Mother I would have tackled this now, but I haven't...

Millennium Housewife said...

What an excellent post - thankyou! The first half you described my childhood to a tee, the second had me laughing out loud. Cheers! MH

Potty Mummy said...

Well, it's good to know that by the time they are 8 boys can successfully wipe. (And great post, Paradise!)

Tessa said...

Oh, it all comes back to me in a flood of memories. My girls are grown-ups now, but I do remember the questions....and my - rather dubious, I think - answers.

What an absolutely wonderful post. In fact, your entire blog is utterly delightful! said...

a lovely funny moving post. i loved that your daughter considering wiping his own bottom proof that her big brother was accomplished. and i loved your final para x

Iota said...

I agree with you. A Very Good Mother is in fact a long way away from A Fairy Godmother (and no, you didn't imply that you the two were the same).

You did inspire a post of my own on the subject of childish misunderstandings, by the way.