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Posts Tagged ‘Youngest Son’

The last time that I had my children (Half-Term: brilliant), one of the things that I promised Youngest Son was that we would play football on Sunday. After Church, and after “I’ve bought a few things for lunch” and after “I’ve got the lunch under way.”.

In readiness for this, we went off to Argos and chose him the football of his dreams (bright orange, covered in Nike swooshes and Premiership endorsements), which came what I can only describe as “flat-packed” – or, I suppose, a better descriptor would be “uninflated”. It was the work of but forty minutes to get in the car, drive to Richmond (where my parents live), borrow their pump, get back in the car, and get back to Chiswick – so that was GREAT. By the time we had a workable (playable?) football with us, there was only going to be an hour and a half for the football itself, it seemed.

Never mind: he’s only seven and even he’s not up for a full ninety minutes.

Daughter put the brakes on: “What am I going to do?”

“What would you like to do, darling? You’re very welcome to play football too.”

“I don’t like football.”

“Well… what would you LIKE to do?”

(The likelihood of her saying “Play on my DSi” had already been addressed through a previously negotiated, adhered to and mandated “Electronics Embargo” for Sunday – so that wasn’t going to be a problem.)

“Can I bring Baby in her Push-A-Chair?” (This is Daughter’s phrase for her doll’s pushchair, which, it has been decreed, will go EVERYWHERE that we do).

“Of course you can, Darling – but we need to go now.”

With this, Daughter responded with a look of horrified urgency (as though she’d just been informed that the house was on fire and we needed to get DOWN these four flight, through that locked door, and out into the streets, carrying only what we most valued) and bolted up to her bedroom. She came bumping back down, with Baby, Push A Chair, Umbrella, Changing Bag, Changing Mat and Travel blanket. Baby had enough kit to see her through a month on a cruise liner, rather than an hour in the park. However: we were ready, and so we left the house, with Youngest Son jumping along like Zebedee with his new ball.

Daughter was not ready for the trip to go slowly. In fact, it soon became clear, that Daughter had envisioned this trip as the sort of excursion that would make Shackleton blench and think twice.

“STOP!”

(The men all wait)

“Her blanket has come loose. She’ll get a cold.”

We pause and look on as she re-arranges the covers with a fair bit of clucking and tutting – ensuring that Baby is toasty warm and safe. Eventually, the caravan moves off again.

“WAIT!”

Another break: I turn around to see her, feigning anxiety and resignation.

“The sun is in her eyes.”

It becomes clear, relatively quickly, that Daughter does not have a plan on this one. It’s simply a statement of fact and one that she is looking to her father to solve for her.

“Could she close her eyes until she gets to the end of this road? Then the sun won’t be in them.”

“She’s not tired.” (This is said with all the dreadful finality of a hanging judge passing sentence.)

“Why don’t you turn the chair around and walk backwards until we get to the end of the road?”

She’s dubious: she has to confess that this MIGHT work, but I don’t think that she was necessarily really looking for a solution. She gives it a go.

Our progress is now slowed to the rate where we would have packed a light meal “for the journey”, had we only had the fore-warning and Youngest Son’s Zebedee bounces are getting more like Eeyore’s; but with the critical end of the road in sight, we are ready to re-manoeuvre Baby around until she’s facing the front and Daughter is pushing her once again. We’re almost at the park now.

“STOP!”

There’s no disguising the boys’ frustration now. Indeed, Eldest Son (who likes to paint things in as emotive a way as possible) does all but fall to his knees, crying out “WHY??????????????????” at this next interruption.

I do my best to keep my voice concerned and level.

“What is it now, Darling?”

“She’s cold.”

“But her blanket’s wrapped around her.”

“This is her Summer blanket. I need her Winter blanket. Can we go back?”

We don’t go back, of course. Instead, I persuade Daughter of the health risks of Baby over-heating, and we plough on to our final destination.

The football was great, by the way. Friends of Eldest Son were all in the park and we rotated who went in goal and every single person scored (yes: including me – I’m pretty nifty when pitted against players with an average age of eight and a half) – so that was great.

And yes: Baby made it back alive.

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Some years ago now, my children were all having a bath together – and having a great time.

I had just gone to get their pyjamas, when I heard an appalling scream from Daughter: “Noooooooooooo!” – so I raced back in, seeing the boys’ giggling faces and Daughter’s face scrunched up in pain.

“What’s wrong?” I demanded.

Daughter’s tear-stained face tilted up at me and she wailed in agonised tones: “They’re saying I don’t have a willy!”

Freud would have been delighted that the absence of a penis was causing this much angst, but that wasn’t my concern. And so it was that “The Billy” was born: equal, but different and used to describe what Daughter had instead of the much-missed willy.

Much more recently (this week, in fact) I was with Nephew and Niece as they both bounced on the trampoline, and (with it being a hot day), they were both wearing their swimming costumes. At least, they WERE wearing their swimming costumes, but they were very soon removed, as children seem to have an almost pathological hatred of wearing swimming costumes, and so it was that my two year-old niece announced, just to clear things up:-

“I haven’t got a willy.”

My mother and I agreed with her that she hadn’t.

“Brother has got a willy. Daddy has got a willy. I haven’t got a willy. Mummy hasn’t got a willy.”

Again, it was confirmed by the adults present that this was the case.

She considered the situation and then proclaimed:-

“I want a willy.”

She also wants another Banana Muffin, a Baby Annabelle feeding chair, a dress with dogs on and a Paddington Bear – so I think this is just one more in a litany of things she has seen and (thus) believes that she has a claim on.

She’ll soon work out that a willy is much more the sort of thing that has you, rather than vice versa: then she’ll be happy that she’s a non-owner…

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I was driving the children to school on Monday morning, and Eldest Son was advising me of his perspective on the current Royal house.

He has been (as all English children seem to – certainly I did, back in the mists of time), learning about Henry VIII and the Tudors. This has given me the opportunity to drag all of the children off to Hampton Court Palace and The National Portrait Gallery, in order to “bring it to life”.

Hampton Court was a triumph. We were very lucky in that (on the day we went) they were staging a re-enactment of Henry and his Council. Fully costumed actors (no doubt sourly reflecting that they didn’t spend three years at RADA, and give a definitive Edward II in Sheffield, to spend their lives shouting in silly hats in front of baffled Chinese tourists) played a convincing (and properly engrossing) session, at which we, the visitors were also sitting amongst the Council and thus able to ask questions of the King. This, Eldest Son duly did: his face and voice alive with urgency, he raised his hand and put the question that the whole room was REALLY waiting to have answered on the issue of the impending war with France: “Will there be beheadings?” I must give “The King” his due: he handled it brilliantly (and suitably bloodily), making the whole trip a huge success.

We followed that up with a trip to The National Portrait Gallery, to see the portraits and see if that added another dimension. The dimension it appeared to add was a keen urgency to get into the gift shop and buy notebooks (his latest craze), while Youngest Son expressed his desire for five postcards of Samuel Beckett “who looks like a parrot” (which you can’t really argue with)…

Anyway, it seems to have done some good, as in the car, Eldest Son was asking me if our current Queen was a Tudor. I tried to explain the principles of hereditary monarchy and primogeniture, and was making a bit of a hash of it, but was saved by Eldest Son’s own trenchant analysis of the situation:

“Daddy. What I think is that if Edward VI had done his duty and made his Daddy proud by getting married and having a son – WHICH IS WHAT HIS DADDY REALLY WANTED – we would still have Tudors and that would be great. But sadly, he couldn’t be bothered to make his Daddy proud.”

Needless to say, the tears that started to run down my face sprang as much from the comedy as they did from feeling very moved by the way he saw and described the Father/Son bond. I felt like a king: he is certainly a prince.

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If anyone is interested in knowing about a gap in the market (and, I dare say, a market in the gap) then stories of the Saints, told for children (ie: the cool bits, with only a glancing dose of holiness) is a real opportunity. This half term’s homework has been for each of our children to choose, learn the story of, write about and illustrate the life of a saint.

Eldest Son chose St.Michael (on the grounds of the expulsion of Lucifer from heaven, and the artistic possibilities of angels fighting that this afforded him) and did a fairly good job of it, relying only on Wife’s understanding of the story – which was more than adequate. His drawing looked a little like one of the fat cast members of The Simpsons dancing a tango with a lizard, but otherwise, it was a fine job.

Daughter decided that she wanted to do “her saint” (ie: her birthday falls on this saint’s fete day), with whom she shares (some of) her name) – and so it was that we found ourselves researching Saint Martha. Again, I knew the bare details, but I thought that I would double-check and see if I could add anything more interesting around the edges, so I had a quick scan of our library and happened upon “100 Saints”, and found a Guercino painting and a page of dense text about the saint’s salient details. Daughter translated the story into her own world, making it a story of unfairness, sibling rivalry and “telling”: “One day, Jesus was coming to Mary and Martha’s house. Martha was cleaning and tidying up and cooking, but Mary was NOT helping her. Martha went to Jesus and said “Jesus, I am doing all the tidying and Mary isn’t helping AT ALL…” – and so it went on…

But it was Youngest Son who proved most true to character in the choosing of his saint. He tells the story of Saint John the Baptist thus: “St John the Baptist went to the desert, and he knew that Jesus was coming, so he told all the people that they had better say that they were sorry, because God was sending his son to look after them. To make them really sorry, he made them stand in a puddle and poured water on their heads, which he said was baptising them. But then Herod came and killed him and put his head on a tray.”

This account is, of course, pretty accurate, if a little disconcerting to read, casting (as it does) John as a vaguely threatening figure, warning everyone that they’d better watch it because God’s coming and THEN they’ll be sorry;  not to mention someone who got his jollies by making people stand in puddles. Needless to say, it wasn’t until the introduction of Herod into the story that Youngest Son really perked up – and the sense of “serves him right” in the above narrative is certainly no accident if Youngest Son’s disgusted expression on hearing the life story of this most significant of saints is anything to go by.

But it was while browsing the books, the internet and so on, looking for a digestible and diverting version of these stories to use as a starting point for this homework that I was struck by the realisation that such a collection just doesn’t seem to exist – certainly on the Net, though maybe it does in printed form. Any takers?

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1. It was recently end of term, and so the children’s classwork was all returned to us in their book bags. One of the year’s projects had been “When I grow up…” and Youngest Son had played fairly true to type with “I want to be a vet and look after sharks”. His twin sister had slightly less esoteric ambitions: “When I grow up… I want to do the ironing.” –  a report which Wife had a mixed response to: on the plus side, it will be nice to have the help; on the negative side, we may have to do something to raise Daughter’s ambitions a little higher over the parapet.

2. In the religious part of the syllabus, Daughter had acquitted herself rather better (which is not that surprising, as she can often be heard, striding down Chiswick High Road with us, bellowing out sentiments such as “Oh Mary! How we love you, and we love Jesus your son!” to the amusement/horror of the townspeople); but Youngest Son was slightly less evangelical, it would seem. The subject in question was “The Good News”. The comment (admirably pithy, but somewhat disconcerting) was: “Even when pressed, he was unable to think of any good news”. Thanks.

3. It was (also recently) the twins’ fifth birthday. One of Youngest Son’s female classmates sent him a card with the following message: “I like you. I know you want to marry me. I love you.” Now – whether or not this is an indication that all it takes for “like” to turn into “love” is a declaration of desire to marry, to one side – I can’t help feel that Youngest Son will be lucky indeed if his future female inamorata are as transparent and easy-going as this. Fingers crossed.

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A frightening week: Youngest Son was admitted to hospital with acute appendicitis – and what turned out to be a burst, gangrenous abscess on his appendix.

It is thanks entirely to the smart thinking of Wife that he got to hospital at all. The other children have been ill with gastro-intestinal problems, and we had been assuming that it was just Youngest Son’s “turn” – so when he started complaining about a sore tummy, we just gave him Calpol and laid him down under a duvet in front of the television. Had Wife not seen that something specific was up, he may very well have not made it…

He was operated on and spent the week (along with Wife) in The Chelsea and Westminster Hospital – about whom it would be impossible to say enough good things, specifically the (I suspect) staggeringly underpaid nurses who provided round the clock care, compassion and patience. He has since returned home and is being spoiled senseless by Wife, who (like me) is so relieved to see him without tubes coming out of him, and lying listlessly on a hospital bed, that I suspect that if he requested a diet of Maltesers, Ribena and Chocolate Cake, he may stand a very good chance of getting it…

I don’t want to get all misty-eyed (misty-fingered just sounds wrong – morally) over this, but (as many of you will know, and many of you will imagine) there is nothing like thinking that one of your children might not make it to deliver a hefty dose of reality to whatever else is happening in one’s life.

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