100: Present Moment and Future Proofing

Finding numbers in the supermarket

Finding numbers in the supermarket

This is my 100th post! I’ve been thinking about what to write about for this milestone and I have decided to go back to basics. This post is dedicated to the Toddler: who he is and how he talks at this moment in time. Thanks for being such a wonderful protagonist, S!

Questions

The Toddler is asking a lot of questions at the moment. He doesn’t ask “Why?” yet, although he does understand when I ask him for reasons, like: “Why are you in time out?” The answer: “Kicking. Hitting. No sunscreen.” He mainly uses questions to wonder aloud and make choices: “Banana, or apple? Which one I like, Mummy?” His favourite type of questions are rhetorical ones. I tell him we are going to a party, and his response is: “Going….. Gran house? Going…. children’s centre? Going…. cafe? Nooooo, going party!” This gets a little tedious sometimes when used to prolong bedtime stories, every page taking three times as long because we need to go through all the things that are not on the page: “Is a candle? No. Is a ribbon? No. Is a bird? No. Is a button? No. Is a apple!”

Sentence structure

The Toddler is making some more adventurous sentences. He will now thank people for something. Daddy took him out for a spin in our new car and then had to go to work. The Toddler waved him off shouting: “Bye bye Daddy! Thank you little drive nice car!” He also surprised me at dinner time by wanting to pack up half of his tortilla. When asked why, he said: “Bewaren voor in de trein.” [Save for on the train] We weren’t planning to go anywhere by train, but he was very insistent and I wasn’t allowed to even put it in the fridge. He was saving it for on the train.

Parenting comes back to haunt you

It does. Like when Daddy is cooking sausages on the barbecue and gets told with firm insistence by the Toddler: “Daddy! Don’t touch a barbecue! Really hot!”

Or when you say: ” Come on, enough TV now. Let’s play Doodlebugs!” and your toddler replies: “Nog niet, mama. Strakjes.” [Not yet, Mummy. In a minute.]

Bodies

A tentative start has been made on potty training. The Toddler is not too bothered about letting us know when he needs to go yet, but will rush to follow you to the toilet if you announce that you need to go. On arrival in the bathroom he will ask: “Kleine WC of grote WC [small toilet or big toilet], which one you like, Mummy?” Then, he wants to peer into the toilet to observe and comment on the proceedings (argh!), and will ask afterwards: “Lekker gepoept, mama?” [Had a nice poo, Mummy?]

My favourite of his investigations into biology, however, is his research into breastfeeding. He knows this is called ‘voeden’ in Dutch and that your nipples are involved. One day, he lifted up his t-shirt, pointed at his nipples in turn and said: “Eén voeden, twee voedens.” [One feeding, two feedings.] Then he asked me in Dutch: “S feed baby?” I explained that only Mummies could breastfeed. He thought about that for a minute, and then wanted to know: “S feed baby tomorrow?”

Toddling

For one hundred posts, I have been referring to my son as “The Toddler”, and I suppose he still was one when I started. But I look at him now and he doesn’t toddle anymore. He walks, studiously holding on to the buggy, squeezing through tiny gaps because he MUST be next to the buggy and go through doorways at the same time. He runs, round and round in circles until he is dizzy and falls down on the floor giggling. He jumps, higher and higher on everyone else’s trampolines as we don’t have one. He climbs, clambering up and down higher and higher ladders, stairs, climbing frames, over the edge of things, into the bath and out of his car seat. He crawls, to show his little sister how it’s done.

He is not a toddler anymore. He is a child. The Baby, cruising along the furniture, taking shaky steps holding onto our hands: she will be the toddler soon.

It is time to Future Proof my blog, and I would like to take this opportunity, in my 100th post, to give my children new pseudonyms. From now on, and to cover all future developments, they will be The Boy and The Girl.

My boy. Not a toddler anymore.

My boy. Not a toddler anymore.

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Are you still there?

I am living in my childhood holidays – except I’m not. When I was a child, England was our destination of choice for most summer vacations (because of the lovely weather of course). We would rent a little holiday home in a village somewhere and go for walks through the woods, climb over stiles, jump in brooks, go for cream teas, browse second hand bookshops and visit stately homes.

Now I live here – paying a mortgage, finding work, bringing up kids – I sometimes struggle to see how this is the same country I knew from those summers in my youth. This is the topic of this week’s poem.

Our front garden - recreating an English country walk

Our front garden – recreating an English country walk

Are you still there, England?

I remember stone cottages
on windy roads hemmed with hedges,
dogs barking in the yard at dawn
a village shop, red phone box outside.
We ran without fear, without thought,
down the road, flip flops flying,
summer clothes, always grubby,
cricket in the garden and afternoon tea.

There was a stillness that settled.
You were but the scene, painted
as backdrop for childhood adventures,
no one moving or laughing but us.
Shopkeepers waved paper hands,
painted smiles from the hikers,
they knew their role and their place,
any words tightly scripted to brighten our day.

Twenty years on I have jumped in the picture:
the cars set in motion, the volume turned up.
Outside the shop is a shattered red phone box,
the winding lanes hide speeding cars round blind bends.
The chatter is ceaseless, voices cry for attention,
each one the centre of their own universe.
I can’t hear the birds now, the rush of the river,
no one wants to play games or run after geese.

Oh England,
Is it you or my youth that has fled
in the whirl and confusion of life games
insurance and taxes, politics, violence
and final demands?

Then I step out of the front door
the dewy lawn, tall purple flowers,
a child by the hand and one on my arm
and I see them gaze in joyful wonder
at bees and planes and diggers and cats.
Bills are just paper, traffic a game,
Their eyes reflect your beauty,
England,
I look at their faces and find you again.

(c) Judith Kingston 2013

I am linking up, like every Thursday, to Prose for Thought on Victoria Welton’s blog. Click through to read some excellent poetry from fellow bloggers!

Prose for Thought

Embarrassing Moments in my Life

A poem I wrote a while ago – it speaks for it self, I believe.

 

Embarrassing moments in my Life

 

Remember that diary that wasn’t in Dutch

like you thought it would be?

How you opened it, just at the page

that said “I LOVE HIM!!!!”

in desperate, gawky letters

not meant for eyes other than my own

and how you laughed and laughed

and I went cold inside?

 

And remember the tent?

When we thought they’d be gone for hours

so we could – you know –

but they weren’t

and your little brother –

it wasn’t even good.

 

Or remember the time I lied

or the other time I lied

or all those times I said something dumb

those little splinters sticking

in the pin-cushion of my mind.

 

I’d invent Life Tip-exx if I could

if only that were possible

not to see your mocking face

or relive my shame

 

You do remember all that

don’t you?

 

(c) Judith Kingston, 2009

 

Linking up to Prose for Thought, hosted by the excellent Victoria Welton.

Prose for Thought

Too big, Mummy

The Toddler, although a mathematical genius, is a bit confused about opposites.

We are about to leave the house.
“Hat off, Mummy?”
“You mean you want your hat on?”
“Yes, Mummy.”

He is playing downstairs and wonders where Teddy is. He remembers he left Teddy in bed.
“Teddy beneden [downstairs], mama,” he says. “Get-it Teddy?”
“Do you mean Teddy is upstairs?
“Yes, Mummy.”

His latest confusing opposite is “too big, Mummy”.

He is playing in our new sandpit and filling his bucket with sand, tipping it over to make sandcastles. Then he wants to write numbers in the sand. We have some other moulds, and I ask him if he would like to make a crab out of sand perhaps? “No, too big Mummy,” is his reply.

What he means is: I am too little for that. What he actually means is: I’d prefer not to do that. I don’t think I can do it so I’d rather not try.

We come in from an outing and I suggest that maybe he could take his own shoes and socks off. “No, too big Mummy.”

At dinner time: “S, why don’t you have some cauliflower as well, instead of just picking out all the carrots?”
“No, too big, Mummy.”

Since his little sister arrived, he has become aware of the possibility that you might be too little to do certain things. We’d explain that the baby was too little to eat bananas, or grab things, or sing songs. Soon, he started telling us she was too little – but ironically, too little to do things that by then she was actually capable of.

Now he has started to apply this concept to himself. It seems to have given him a way of expressing insecurity, a lack of confidence – or sometimes just stubborn unwillingness to try something new. He can be a bit of a cautious boy. For about six months after a little mishap with a slide, he would climb up the steps to slides of any height with great excitement, only to peer down and decide: “No. Not.” and turn around to climb back down the steps again. He seems to have forgotten that reluctance now. But he does seem aware of his limitations, he is not one of these fearless boys who will throw themselves into new adventures regardless of the dangers and risks. He wants to try the more difficult climbing frame but insists I stay right next to him as he climbs up the first bit, then squeaks “Carry!” as he can see he is “too big” yet for the monkey bar section that comes next. I lift him over to the other side, where with great joy he zooms down the slide – something he has mastered and feels confident with. The monkey bars don’t put him off wanting to get to the slide. The difficult ladder section at the beginning doesn’t put him off, he wants to give it a go, but he wants me to stay close and coach him, help him decide where to put his hands and feet next. And I look on in amazement, because the last time I looked he had no hope of even attempting that climbing frame.

He is growing up and getting bigger all the time.

Special bed

Special bed

This week, he moved into a real bed from his cot. We were quite nervous about how he would take it. We talked about leaving the cot up in the room for a while, in case he was really upset and wanted his old bed back. There was no room, though, so we had to take it down and go cold turkey. My husband and I were both very cautious as children and very resistant to change, so our assumption is usually that our son will be the same. We prepared him that he would have a new bed that evening and billed it as a wonderful surprise. Once it was built, made up and all his toys had moved in, my husband got out his camera to record this moment – hoping that the Toddler’s reaction wouldn’t be: “No, too big, Daddy.”

It wasn’t. He rushed into his room to see his surprise and said: “Special bed!” He got straight in and wanted us to stroke his hair so he could go to sleep. Every morning now when I come up to get him, I find him sitting on the floor reading books and he greets me with: “Lekker slapen nieuw bed!” [Nice sleep new bed!]

He wasn’t too little or too big for the new bed, but just the right size.

Well.

Maybe I think you’re getting a bit too big. Don’t grow up too fast, little man.


Making Home

Something I find utterly bewildering is the fact that this house, that my husband and I bought just after we married and have been filling with junk ever since, is my children’s home. All the random things we have done and not done to the house (done: made sure they each had a bedroom; not done: order and tidy our belongings) set the scene for their early childhood memories, in the same way that I look back on my own childhood and most of it takes place in my home in the Netherlands.

At my parents' house the table is always set for a fancy dinner

At my parents’ house the table is always set for a fancy dinner

I can paint you a picture of this house with my memories:
On the 5th of December, someone would knock on the door and our wicker laundry basket would be outside filled with presents from Sinterklaas. The back of the sofa in the extension could be pushed forward to create a reception desk, a bar, a bus or aeroplane. My mother would always play Scarlatti on the piano and when I was older I taught myself to play the first 16 bars of it, out of nostalgia. Now I play it on any piano I come across. My brother and I had our own computer but for most of my writing I would sneak into my parents’ study and sit at my Mum’s far superior PC to create never-to-be-finished novels and deeply sentimental poetry.  I slept in the loft and had always wanted a four poster bed, like a princess. For one of my birthdays, my parents put up curtain rails around the bed, screwed into the beams, and I woke up in the middle of the night to find my Mum quietly putting up pink curtains to make my princess bed, all ready for when I woke up on my birthday.

These are the moments that we are creating for our children right now, in this house. The enormity of it hit me this week. Hence my poem for today.

Making Home

This is the home of your youth
where your childhood takes place
where your foundations are laid
where your memories are made.

You will think back to this house one day
with a thrill of nostalgia:
remember how the wind would howl
around the house, in all seasons
– you will say –
the house on the hill, the overgrown garden?

Remember the mess, the boxes in corners
that didn’t have homes
YET, Mum would say
but there they would stay
we never looked at them, they were
furniture, part of the décor,
just papers and wires and broken CDs.

Remember how we played hide and seek
and had picnics with teddies and plastic cake;
and how we were explorers, built towers,
climbed mountains of cushions,
made a pirate ship out of your bed
and sailed off to plunder the kitchen?

Remember how I’d sneak into your room
in the dead of night, with a flash light,
and we’d talk in the dark about bullies
and loneliness and friends who were cruel?

One day you will meet, all grown up, over coffee,
the house may be sold, or you have moved out,
and your minds will have blended and softened the edges
so even sadness or sorrow gain a magical glow.

But first, you must live through these days and grow up here
make memories for later, grow love play and cry
in the unfettered joy of your childhood
build our love for each other
into a happy home.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2013

Linking up to Prose for Thought.

Prose for Thought