Into the Woods

The woods are just trees
The trees are just wood
I have no fear nor no one should

Today, I took advantage of the fact that my parents were around to go on a little trip into the local woods with the Boy. Opa came with us, but we left Oma at home to look after the Girl. She needed a sit down after hoovering my stairs and cleaning my bathroom.

I love the fact that we have a small wood just across the road. I hardly ever visit it, though. One reason is that the paths are inaccessible for buggies. This makes the wood all the more natural and charming, but it means I haven’t really ventured forth into it for the past three years. As soon as the Boy was old enough to be able to manage the walk with confidence, the Girl arrived. So today, Oma watched her as she tested various objects around the house for their usefulness as a walker, while Opa, the Boy and I set out on our forest adventure.

The Boy always wants to take things with him on outings. These were his objects of choice today:

Things you need for a walk in the woods: a doctor's case and a polar bear driving a car

Things you need for a walk in the woods: a doctor’s case and a polar bear driving a car

The reason you need two spare adults (one to mind the baby and one to come along) for a trip to our local forest became apparent to my Dad as soon as we got to the entrance.

“It’s not a very clean wood,” he said, surveying the bouquet of freshly trampled beer cans, discarded crisp wrappers, empty packets of biscuits and used condoms artfully displayed among the foliage.

Yes. We live in a run-down area and what happens in the forest when no one is looking I will leave up to your imagination. Suffice it to say that it is good not to go in alone, just in case. And not to go in after dark. Or stay too long. Before children, I once went running there with a friend and we encountered a police man. The forest was part of his beat, it seemed. He was strolling along, looking reassuring, and nodded a greeting as we jogged past.

“I’m not sure we could get the better of any attackers if there were three of them.” My Dad, always the academic, set about analysing the probabilities once I’d explained that he was our body guard.

“It’s okay,” I said, surveying a large branch lying across the path, “There are plenty of improvised weapons around.”

“Still… If there were three of them…”

“We wouldn’t need to beat them, we’d just need to stall them enough that we could run away.”

My Dad still looked doubtful, so I thought I’d impart some of my husband’s best self-defence wisdom: “Aim for the eyes. Everyone will naturally move to protect their eyes – then you run.”

“But wouldn’t they catch us? They’d be faster.” We were further into the wood by now. The debris had thinned a bit and the sun came out, lighting up the path ahead.

“Monkey! I see monkey inna tree,” the Boy exclaimed, entirely unphased and unaware of our rather morbid conversation.

“Wow, you can see a monkey?” I asked. “Shall we collect some different shaped leaves to go in your doctor’s case?”

“Yes. Love a different shapes,” he declared, pulling fistfuls of leaves off the nearest bush and stuffing them into the case.

“And scream. You could scream really loudly. But that’s not easy to do,” my Dad said, still studying our potential predicament from all angles.

We came to the edge of the wood, where you can stand on a raised bank and look out over the fields.

“Wow!” the Boy said. “Farm.”

“Somebody lit a fire here,” my Dad remarked, peering into the ditch. Burned branches and charred beer cans.

All in all, we decided it was wisest to take the Boy’s collection of leaves straight home to Oma, and headed back out of the forest. We took a bit more time wandering through the streets, letting the Boy stop and collect flowers.

“Need all-a colours of a rainbow,” he said. “Present for Oma.”

Leaves and colourful flowers for Oma

Leaves and colourful flowers for Oma. In a zip-lock bag.

Into the woods, and out of the woods
and home before dark.*

*Not my poetry. Song lyrics from Sondheim’s musical “Into the Woods”.


How To-Guide: Parenting by Sound

We all know a silent toddler is up to no good. But if you ever want to get any cooking or washing up done you probably do a lot more parenting-by-sound than you realise. Here is a short tutorial for beginners:

Good Sounds – Leave well enough alone

* Buttons being pressed on noisy toys
* Wheels of toy vehicles spinning along the floor
* Singing along to the TV
* Happyland people chatting to each other about daily life, shopping or public transport
* Conversations with cuddly toys about a picnic/tea party. CAVEAT: This is UNLESS you know there to be actual food or drink present in the room where the Toddler is. In which case, go and investigate right away.
* Pencils scratching on paper
* Thick pages being turnedchocolate faces small

Sounds that need investigation

* “Mmmmmm!” You may find your toddler tucking into a huge chocolate bar you had stashed away somewhere for yourself.
* Pencils scratching when you know there is no paper.
* Raucous laughter, esp if teamed with hissing/meowing from the cat
* Rhythmical thuds
* The receiver-off-hook whine coming from the telephone
* Book-thuds or DVD-rattles. You may need to put a halt to a young librarian implementing a new filing system involving piles rather than shelves.
* “Helping Mummy!” Sadly, helping Mummy is rarely a safe activity for toddlers to engage in unsupervised.

Drop Everything And Run

* The front door opening
* “Ah, Mummy cuppa tea!”
* Mountaineering-type sounds
* A loud crash
* Any sound that is followed by high pitched screams/crying

Feel free to share your own classic examples in the comments!

NOTE: The Health and Safety-conscious among you might have spotted that most sounds in the last category could be prevented: lock the front door, don’t leave hot tea where your toddler can reach, fix absolutely everything to the walls, don’t stack or balance heavy things etc etc. I believe there are now professionals who will come to your house for free to tell you where you are going wrong with child-proofing. What an excellent profession! But sadly, in my life – as in yours, I imagine? – risk assessment sometimes takes a back seat to interruptions, nappy emergencies and bad nights’ sleep.