Public apology to my son’s plants

Dear Seeds,

Anybody home? No?

Anybody home? No?

I haven’t seen any green shoots appear so I guess you must be dead. When my son brought you home with great excitement, in that little pot with a sticker with his name on it and a hand-written note from the lovely pre-school staff saying “Today the Boy planted sunflower seeds”, you were probably unaware that you were going to be handed over to a serial killer. (That’s me, in case your current state of dehydration and asphyxiation hadn’t tipped you off)

By now, you could have become a lovely tender green plant in the tidy and clean window sill of some other Mum’s home, with a lovely view through the crystal clear windows of the beautifully tended garden where you would soon be able to spread your roots and grow and eventually flower.

But sadly you came home with the Boy and now you are here.

I did remember to water you on the first day. And on the fourth day, I think, or it might have been the seventh, I lost count, and quite frankly, that is my problem right there. Or I guess it is more your problem, as I have not noticeably suffered from your demise.

Some of your fellow seeds were in another pot, with the Girl’s name on it, and that didn’t even make it to the window sill – perhaps that is of some comfort. I stuffed that pot in her school bag, where I accidentally tipped it over as I pulled her lunch box out, and all the soil spilled out, probably with the seeds in, and I shook the whole lot out into the bin.

It wasn’t even the compost bin.

The truth is, I just can’t make myself care enough about you plants. I wish I did. It’s not that I hate nature or anything. I love walking through forests, for instance. And I love the idea of growing plants from seeds. But I’m afraid there is always something more pressing on my mind. You are bottom of the food chain in our house. And unless you learn to somehow draw attention to yourself, like the cats very successfully do, you are going to stay there.

I guess this apology is more of a “sorry not sorry”. Because although I do feel really bad about your death (and the death of the others before you), I don’t see myself changing my ways anytime soon.

After World War Three and the nuclear apocalypse, when the supermarkets have become places to hide from zombies and the farmers have all been eaten by aliens, once peace has been restored and we pick up the pieces and try to build new lives for ourselves, I promise that then I will really and truly dedicate myself to growing a beanstalk. And potatoes and carrots and everything. They will have top priority then.

Though I have to admit I probably still won’t bother with sunflowers.

Sorry again.

The Boy’s Mum.

This could have been you if we'd done the right thing and taken you to Gran's. Gran knows how to look after plants.

This could have been you if we’d done the right thing and taken you to Gran’s. Gran knows how to look after plants.

Loud ‘n Proud: Making Sense of the World

I have been waiting for the “why” phase for a while. One of The Boy’s many best friends was plaguing his mother for reasons even before he was three, but all the Boy wanted to know was: “What’s that, Mummy?” and “What are you doing, Daddy?” He has been more interested in defining, labelling and quantifying. This shouldn’t surprise me really, given his focus on numbers and shapes. He likes to know what things are and where they’re at. But he doesn’t ask me why.

“Does he just not have a natural investigative instinct?” I worry sometimes, child of two university lecturers. “Does he not want to do research?”

We are at said university lecturers’ house in the Netherlands this week. The kids have been over the moon to see their beloved grandparents again and play with the special toys that they only see at their house. The Boy is spending most of his time with the foam numbers, making hopscotch and hiding them for Opa and Oma to find, and the Girl is playing with the doll that was my own constant companion from age 5. I have been enjoying some time off from housework and indulging my tendency towards nostalgia with old photo albums. Generally, time has moved more slowly and nothing has seemed as frantic or urgent as it often does in daily life at home.

Yesterday we walked through the park where I used to play as a child. I was actually in a bit of a hurry to get to the town hall to take care of some ex-pat business, but the Boy wanted to stop at the bridge to see the ducks. I decided it wouldn’t really matter if we were a bit later, and was excited that he was showing an interest in nature, broadening his horizons. The Girl was asleep in the buggy, so it was just him and me and the birds.

sam met eenden

“Hello ducks! Mummy, I want them to come closer!”

He was sad we didn’t have any bread for them. Then he spotted a different kind of bird by the water’s edge, standing stock still, its long beak pointing down at the canal.

“Mummy!” he asked breathlessly. “What’s that bird?”

vliegende reiger (2)

What – not why.

“It’s a heron,” I explained.

The Boy studied the heron for a while. The bird did not move a muscle.

He asked me very seriously: “Is he made of glass?”

“No, it’s a real bird. He is standing very still because he is waiting to catch a little fish and he doesn’t want the fish to see him.”

The Boy was fascinated and refused to carry on until the heron had caught something. I was a little worried we might be a while, but it wasn’t long before the beak moved slowly closer and closer to the water, before snatching an invisible prey. Then the bird took off to find a new perch.

We moved on and soon we got to a large cage full of birds that has been there ever since I can remember, although the inhabitants change fairly frequently. At the moment there is a little family of pheasant-type birds living in the centre enclosure. (I myself know very little of birds, please feel free to correct me…)

The Boy was enchanted by the large, colourful bird. His question: “That’s a lovely bird, Mummy. What’s his name?”

“I don’t know.”

“Can we call it Bernard?”

I supposed that was as good as anything, and for the next ten minutes, the Boy chatted to and about Bernard. “Look, Bernard has a baby, Mummy. I’ll call it “chicken”. Hello Chicken!”

"Bernard"

“Bernard”

We had to leave Bernard and carry on, and the Boy spotted lily pads on the canal. He expressed a desire to go and jump on them. “No!” I cautioned, “I know frogs in cartoons jump on lily pads, but you are much too heavy.”

The Boy’s spirits could not be quenched. “When we be 8, we turn into frogs, and jump on lily pads!”

I didn’t contradict him. He’ll find out in time.

“Can we go back to Nidiland now?”

“We are in the Netherlands,” I sighed. It was the Spain issue all over again. “Do you mean to Opa and Oma’s house?”

Yes, that was what he meant.

The answer was no, and as he trudged dejectedly along with me towards the rather boring destination, I reflected on his wonderful brain.

He is not asking why. He is coming up with his own ideas on how reality works. A bird doesn’t move for a while? He comes up with his own hypothesis: perhaps it is made of glass. Mummy doesn’t know an animal’s name? Well, maybe that is because it doesn’t have one yet and the whole thing is still wide open for his own suggestions. He can’t jump on lily pads? Well, one day he might turn into a frog and then he’ll be able to.

He is, I thought proudly, becoming a free thinking, independent philosopher. Why would he want to ask other people for the reasons and the explanations? He is plenty clever enough to come up with his own.

Then, while I was contemplating all this, he asked me a why-question after all. One that I suddenly realised he asks a lot.

“Why are you smiling Mummy?”

He uses ‘Why’ sparingly, asking me about the only subject I am truly an expert on: myself. He uses it to find out what the matter is with Mummy. To work out what makes Mummy tick.

Have you discovered your children are future philosophers or Nobel peace prize winners this week? Have they staggered you with their knowledge, their effort or their sporting prowess? Have you yourself done something amazing this week? Come and link up with Loud ‘n Proud! Just click on the link below, it will take you to a separate page. 

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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”.