Meanwhile in Boy World

Dot writes: some jottings on what our boys are up to. Mostly they’re engaged in elaborate games involving knights, baddies, extensive sound effects and anything vaguely sword-shaped they can get hold of, including their wooden swords (thanks, family and friends who thought it was a good idea to give small children weapons) but also umbrellas, cardboard tubes from wrapping paper, rolled posters etc. They are playing together quite well all things considered and seem (I hope I don’t speak too soon) to have learnt not to whack each other with the swords. But here are some other ideas from the fertile Mind of Boy:

Hugh – This evening he rebuilt the chairs and sofa in the living room into a machine for swapping brains, which he was keen to demonstrate to me when I was in the middle of dinner. First he swapped himself and Frank. “I like diggers!” said Hugh, pretending to have Frank’s brain. Then he swapped me and Frank, and I told him that I suddenly felt much cleverer. Then he insisted that he had swapped Frank and Julie, but the machine had a bendy wire and was no longer working so he wouldn’t be able to swap them back for a week. Frank and Julie pretended to swap back without using the machine, but Hugh was rather displeased.
– Also Hugh has been telling me stories about a character called Magic Mummy, who has a magic pot and other magic things. I asked if I could tell Grandma about Magic Mummy; if Grandma would like to make up a story about her, would Hugh mind? Hugh had a little think and said he wouldn’t. (Any interest, Grandma?)

Frank – Every morning Frank pretends to be a baby dinosaur. “I’m a baby triceratops; raar!” he says in a little, high voice. “A T-rex ate my mum. Will you be my mummy triceratops?” I tell him that yes, I’ll be his mummy triceratops. I try not to think too hard about the fact that the real mummy is always dead.


Dot writes: Frank has a passion for jigsaws and is, at least to a mother’s fond eyes, remarkably good at them for a three-year-old. Here he is tackling Hugh’s 100-piece dinosaur jigsaw.


And he here is with the finished item:


Now, if you asked Frank he would tell you proudly “I did it by my own”, but I did help him: not by putting the pieces in, but by making suggestions for where things might go and feeding him pieces that he would be able to fit in to the part of the jigsaw that was already taking shape. Frank’s approach is to pick up a piece and then work out where to put it. Hugh, however, has learnt that you need to find what’s missing from the picture you have. Hugh can do this jigsaw completely by himself, but he likes to set me tasks: “Mummy, find me some more pieces of the T-rex.”

The baby on the lawn

Dot writes: I have a rich and varied repertoire of anxiety dreams. There’s the one about missing the train, and the one in which I’m at my parents’ house for Christmas and on Christmas Eve I still haven’t bought any presents, and the one where there’s a fire in the corner of the room but I have to pack a suitcase of clothes before I can leave, and the one (which is quite recent in date but surprisingly recurrent) in which I’m out walking, or sometimes in a boat, and a vast rocket or aeroplane crashes right ahead of me and I know that I’m about to die. (It’s a non-stop party in my subconscious, I can tell you.) And then there’s the one in which I’ve accidentally abandoned the children. For example: Ken and I are both at a party, we’ve been there for a while, and I thought the kids were with my mum – well I’ve been assuming they’re with my mum – but she’s at the party too, so maybe they’re with my sister, but in fact I don’t know who’s looking after them or exactly where they are and it dawns on me that this is a dreadful, dreadful situation. When Frank was a baby I had this dream in another form in which I realised that we had left him behind on the lawn outside a stately home and it was now raining.

Yesterday at about 6pm I was looking into our rather denuded fridge as I prepared dinner, and I asked Julie whether there was enough food for her to cook dinner for the boys today or whether I should put in a grocery order.
“But I’m flying to London first thing tomorrow,” was her reply.
“But I have the examiners’ meeting for the MPhil tomorrow and I thought you were looking after the children,” was mine. And we were both horrified.

Somehow Julie had talked all week about her trip to London and I had talked all week about my examiners’ meeting without either of us realising that we had a problem. For my part I was convinced she was flying out on Saturday. For her part – well, maybe she thought the annual examining process would all be done and dusted in time for me to be home by pick-up time. (Which is 1pm, in Frank’s case.)

So I starting phoning people who might possibly take the boys. First I phoned Joan, but her young daughter was at that very minute being sick. Then I phoned Niall (who has done us many favours of this type and probably deserves some sort of pension from us by now), but the call was rejected. Then I phoned the mother of Hugh’s classmate Simon, but Simon was going to be out on a playdate on Friday afternoon and his parents at work. Then I phoned Frank’s playschool, and happily the call was answered even though it was after closing time, so I arranged for Frank to stay until 3pm and Hugh to come for two hours after school if I could find someone to bring him over from Raheny. Then I phoned the mother of another of Hugh’s classmates and asked if she might be able to transport Hugh. She couldn’t – her son was being picked up on foot by a childminder and walked home in a completely different direction – but the childminder could take Hugh too and then Hugh could play at their house. So we had an arrangement and all I had to do was explain to Hugh as carefully and firmly as possible that he should go home with Finn and with a lady with long black hair he possibly knew by sight but had never previously spoken to.

Julie said I should take the extra money I would be paying Frank’s playschool out of her money for December. I said no. I was able to have the pleasure of being magnanimous, now my stomach had returned to roughly the right place.

Thank goodness for Hugh’s party, because without it I wouldn’t have had most of the numbers that I called yesterday evening. Thank goodness also that I didn’t, as I at one point planned, work late on Thursday evening. If Julie and I hadn’t had that conversation at a moderately reasonable hour – even worse, if we had not spoken at all, and if she had left for the airport at 5am, and I had assumed that she was simply sleeping late (as she often does) when I didn’t see her in the morning…shudder.

I had a couple of anxiety dreams last night. I had the plane one: the tail of the plane crashed in front of me and I started to run in the other direction but realised the rest of the plane was directly above me, still very high up but falling rapidly. And I had a dream in which I’d gone for a walk with Hugh leaving Frank asleep in the house. I was trying to get back but we were very far away, and I was frightened to think of Frank waking and finding himself completely alone.

First cut

Dot writes: he’s already three years old, but the haircut Frank had this morning was the first one of his entire life. Here he is with his smart new big boy hair. He’s striking a silly pose, but he still looks extremely cute, in my humble and not-at-all biased opinion.

Frank is three!

Dot writes: by gum it takes a long time to put in an internet grocery order. Apparently the website is supposed to remember and tell you what you ordered last time as a shortcut, but this doesn’t seem to work for me yet, so I’ve just spent much of the last hour when I could have been writing this post wading through six pages of pictures of yoghurt. The long, meditative post on the many virtues and endearing peculiarities of a small, but not-so-small-as-he-was boy will have to wait, as I need to go to bed (but happily, for the first time in his life, his birthday is not marked by a raucous party in the house next door).

Today Frank is three years old. We have not made much fuss about it as all the presents and the party happened on Saturday. (Sorry the second picture below is blurry.)

There was a contingent of older children – Hugh, Jake, Karel and Hugh’s classmate Ella – and they went upstairs to play while the adults chatted and watched the littler ones. Frank was bitten on the back by the curly haired boy in the picture above, but it served him right as I believe he first whacked said boy with a plastic spade. Apart from that Frank had an excellent time exploring his impressive haul of presents. I asked Hugh afterwards what the older ones had done. “We played babies,” he replied. “Ella was the mummy and I was the fire-breathing dragon.”

His tender heart

Dot writes: by the way, you should look away now if you dislike posts involving poo.

Frank loves babies. When asked what he did at school he tends to reply “I pushed a baby”, but this is only a symptom of how interesting he finds them. He likes to pretend to be a baby by saying “goo goo” and lying in my arms. When we point out baby animals – for instance kittens or lambs – he reliably exclaims “ahhhh, how cute!” In the zoo today he not only oohed and aahed over the actual babies (lambs, kids, one-year-old gorilla etc), he spotted babies where there were none, for example identifying a very marginally smaller African spurred tortoise as a baby and deciding the other two, very marginally larger African spurred tortoises must be its mum and dad. But sometimes he takes his enthusiasm a bit far. For example earlier this evening when he had made successful use of his potty. “Mummy, I did a big poo!” he called to me with pride. “Well done,” I replied, “what a big poo.” “And all the little poos,” he added sentimentally, “they’re so little and cute.”

I’m afraid I flushed them away anyway.