Life Game: Dealing with Rivals

devastation

This used to be a… ah who cares?

Yo Gamers,

WARNING: Following the advice in this post will shift your alignment towards Evil. If you’re okay with that – read on.

I am finding more and more that the Brother is a) in my way; b) hogging the cool adults (esp Daddy); c) not letting my princess dolls join in his quests; d) singing when I want him to be quiet; e) moaning about my singing.

So, what do you do when some other player really gets on your nerves in Life Game?

The Mummy says you use words not hands. From what I’ve seen in Life Game the more usual option is to gang up on them with all your mates and kill their character, but I’ve found there are slower, more painful ways to get your own back, and in this episode I’d like to share them with you.

Destroy their stuff

Simple: find all their rare items and destroy them. While they watch. This increases their Distress but also their Outrage, plus it counts as a Sneak Attack because they never expect you to be that brazen.

There are plenty of fun destruction options to choose from. Personally I like to find the Brother’s scrolls and use ‘Scribble’ or ‘Cut (scissors)’, but if you don’t have either of those skills yet, using ‘Trample’ on Lego models or towers of bricks is just as effective (see picture above).

Get them into trouble

Be patient. Sooner or later, the Brother will gently brush past you, or accidentally step on a corner of the drawing you’re doing, and that is when you start screaming for The Mummy. I find some very distressed Crying does wonders and makes The Mummy come faster. Then you complain loudly that the Brother pushed you, and RUINED your drawing. If you play this right and really dial up the hurt and outrage the Brother will get Told Off. Score.

NB Get extra points by following up Get into Trouble with Gloat: “I’m sitting nicely, aren’t I, Mummy?”

Block their quests

So they don’t want you to join in their projects? Fine, then the next time they need you, you will be unavailable. Just say no to anything they ask you:

“Let’s play Pokémon!”

Your answer? “No, I don’t want to.”

Be strong. Even if you actually would like nothing better than to pretend to be Pikachu, say no! It will make him very upset.

Similarly, when asked to decide on something to watch together, whatever the Brother suggests, say no. At all costs avoid coming to a compromise! Compromising is for n00bs.

Spoil the Game

If you are really very super upset (for example, if the Brother got to go to the baker’s with Opa and you didn’t, or he got to ride in the Daddy’s car and you didn’t, or if the Babysitter isn’t coming until tomorrow), then there is nothing for it. You have to Spoil the Game. And I mean spoil the entire game, for the whole server. Let them feel your wrath! Show them your power! They’ll be sorry!!

I find the best way to do this is to launch a SuperScream attack. Don’t let up. Make it constant, so that none of the other players can get in between with counterspells or try to bribe you with cool items (be strong!). Use Cry, Shout, Kick, Shriek – anything that causes a massive fuss.

When the Mummy asks what the matter is, just make sure your explanation is hidden in sobs so she can’t quite make it out. Before you know it, the Brother will join in and start shouting at you, then the Mummy will shout at both of you and the game will be ruined for everyone.

Then just sit back, relax and suck your fingers, happily surveying the chaos and upset you have caused. A job well done.

Hopefully, these tips will help you crush your rivals with style. As always, let me know if you find any other cool hacks that will help put the Brother firmly in his place.

Laterz peeps,

xxxxxThe Girl

 

 

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3 year old sleepovers

IMG_3011 (3)On the way home from pre-school today, the Girl (3) started arranging play dates from the back seat. I should add that this was completely unprompted by me – clearly these were plans she had been hatching by herself for some time, judging by the level of detail.

Girl: “Mummy, Rosie B. has to come for a play at our house and then for a sleepover the day after tomorrow.”

Me: “Right. Maybe she should just come for a play first. Rosie has never been to our house before, so she might be a bit scared to stay overnight.”

Girl: “But she can sleep next to me, where my cuddlies are, so she doesn’t need to be scared, and I’d switch my turtle light on, so she won’t need to be scared. And then she can come for a sleepover!”

I am very touched by her concern for this girl who is apparently a new and treasured friend, but gently insist that just a simple play date would be fine at first.

Girl: “Alright Mummy, when we get home you can ring Rosie’s Mummy and tell her to come and play and then after that she can come for a sleepover.”

In my head I am imagining what the Girl and Rosie might be like together at pre-school. Have they become close friends this term? I ask her if they sat together at lunch and what they play together, but the Girl’s brain is still whirring on the play date problem. Before long another solution presents itself.

“Okay Mummy, let’s ask Lily, the one with the white hair, to come for a sleepover. She doesn’t get scared.”

How foolish of me. Obviously, the important thing was the sleepover, not the friend.

Life Game: Doing School

photo 1 (2)‘Sup gamers?

Hope you’re all enjoying Life Game. I’ve been very busy exploring and only just remembered that I owe you all a walk-through for the:

Great Pre-school Coup

When the Brother was only on Level 3 he somehow gained access to a mysterious cult known as Pre-School. They meet in a building full of toys every morning and share high level skills, forgotten lore and nursery rhymes. They also have access to privileged gear like climbing frames, bouncy castles and plastic sea creatures. For a long time I was only able to get into the building, but I couldn’t work out how you got into the cult itself. There are these five Guardians who are tall enough to bolt and unbolt the doors and it seemed they were the key to getting to stay for the whole morning.

My first breakthrough was when I discovered that there was some kind of feeder group for the cult, called a Toddler Group. You had to turn up at a specific date and time every week, but then you got to play with some of the toys in a separate room. Not quite there, but at least you could get into conversations with one of the guardians to try and win their favour.

Finally, I discovered how to get in for good.

They have passwords.

(I would warn you for spoilers at this point, but let’s face it, you’re not going to Google a walk-through unless you want to know spoilers, right?)

If you want to get in with the Rookies (which I recommend to start off with), the password is ‘Acorn’ and if you want to join the Veterans it’s ‘Chestnut’. Simple really. You just approach one of the guardians, say the password, and the next time you go up to the door there will be a little acorn/chestnut on the board with your name on it. Hey presto! You’re in Pre-School!

Some things you should know about Pre-School:

GOOD

* It comes with a backpack, which increases your inventory. Often you will find scrolls in there with useful information about hats and healthy snacks and concerts and sports days, and any drawings or projects you do will appear in the backpack at the end of the day as well;

* Pre-School also means you get a snack box, which gives your energy levels a boost. Plus having your own box with your name on it is cool.

* There are wonderful new people to meet at Pre-School. I’ve already got my eye on a few classmates that I plan to befriend by blasting them with my Charisma.

BAD

* There seems to be a bit of a bug in Pre-School. Once you have signed up and you are a part of the cult, you then can’t get out of it anymore. There is no way to switch off this automatic re-location to Pre-school every morning. Some days I just want to watch TV or I’ve planned a raid on the Brother’s cuddly toys, so I just don’t have the time to go to Pre-School, but I still keep ending up there. I tried Protest Loudly and Cry and Sulk but the Mummy just puts you in the car anyway and once you are there – dammit – you get distracted by the guardians and their cool toys and you forget to carry on with the crying.

* The only other bad thing about Pre-School is that it limits your wardrobe options. Hats are compulsory in sunny weather, and however much I try to click on the Party Dress option, it is greyed out on pre-school days and your only options are Sensible Clothes and Sensible Shoes. And yes, I tried Cry and Sulk here too but once again, the Mummy seems to have an override.

Well, I’m in now, and working hard to replace the Brother in his position in the cult. I am using a combination of Charm, Wit, Imagination and Hugs to ingratiate myself with the Guardians and make friends with all the other children. I think it must be working, because more and more often now there is talk of the Brother leaving Pre-School and going somewhere else called Big School after the summer. Clearly he has noticed that this is my place now and it ain’t big enough for the both of us.

Although.

Now that he is half out of the door I am a little sad.

Who will protect me from scooters that are about to bump into me now? Who will get my coat and my bag for me? Who will tell me what to play?

Will I have to do all that for myself?

And what is this Big School and how do I get into it?

Let me know if you have any ideas.

Yours with some concern,

The Girl

photo 2 (2)

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.

The Mummy Dictionary

photo (2)

It is lunch time.

“Mummy, What does ‘new’ mean?”

“That something was made or born a short time ago.”

“What does ‘old’ mean?”

“It means that something was made or born a long time ago.”

“What does ‘red’ mean?”

Briefly I consider going into light spectrum and so on, but I decide against it. “It means something has the colour red.”

“What does ‘one’ mean?”

“That there is only one of something.”

“What do two, three, four, five and all the other numbers mean?”

Now I’ve had enough.

“They are arbitrarily assigned combinations of phonemes used to signify the number of units of something present at any one time.”

Well, he was asking for it.

Amazing Art

The Boy’s art work has been developing behind closed doors. That is, at pre-school. When he started in January, the only subject matter for paintings that was of any interest to him was, you guessed it, numbers. At home he would draw, stencil, paint and playdough solely to make more and more numbers. Then the numbers would need to be cut out and they could travel all over the house solving crimes and plotting world domination (I may be embellishing a bit here).

I still get a lot of large sheets of paper with numbers back from pre-school. However, other things have started to appear too. Sometimes he brings home a painting of me, or of his sister. Occasionally there might be a rudimentary animal/monster-thing.

Summer holidays now, and finally, one afternoon, I got to witness the New Art. The Boy sat down with his watercolours (LIDL’s finest) and set about making paintings for “everyone”. He spent a good hour or so, producing picture after picture, putting them all on the window sill to dry.

20140729-233544.jpg

 

He made rainbows.

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and a tiger…

20140729-233617.jpg

 

and more and more and more rainbows that got better and better, looking for “violet” and “indigo”, not boring old purple.

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He even tried new techniques, like flicking the paint from the paintbrush onto the paper.

The piece de resistance, which I sadly did not have a chance to photograph before he stuffed it into his tiny backpack for some undisclosed but of course totally logical reason, was a car with a sky above and a road below in appropriate colours.

I just looked on in awe at his flair, his imagination, and his colourful mind splashed onto a whole window sill full of amazing art.

Not My Year Off

Glowing with Pride: The Boy’s first Review

There are reasons why creative people are creative. We want to express ourselves, we want to share something with the world, we want to touch other people’s lives – and we love the satisfaction of standing next to what we have made and being proud of it. Positive feedback motivates us to carry on and do even better.

Yes, that is what I felt like standing next to my son – who I had some hand in shaping – as his keyworker at pre-school praised his awe inspiring academic abilities.

The Boy has been at pre-school for a term and a half now and last week was my first ‘review’ meeting with the teacher assigned to keep an eye on him. The idea was to share what they had observed of him and talk about what he could work on next.

I was prepared to hear that he was above average in his mathematical abilities. His teacher was amazed that he could tell you which number came before and after another number, that he could recognise at a glance that there were five objects on a table (2 or 3 is normal for his age, apparently) and that he recognises shapes and numbers in the world around him.

You barely know the half of it, I wanted to say.

I have bragged about this before and I am sure you are all rolling your eyes now, but even since my last post on the topic he has done more amazing things. He has started adding up, telling me at random moments (on the toilet) that 2 and 3 make 5 and that 6 and 3 make 9. Then the other day at about 6am we were playing with the Duplo, which somehow turned into a multiplication lesson. Before I knew where I was he was making towers of equal height, counting the number of towers and how many blocks that made in total. Also, on a trip into town with Daddy he pointed at the interestingly shaped paving and said: “It’s a hexagon! It has six corners and six sides!”

The teacher also reported he was well ahead on reading skills: he knows most of the sounds the letters make as well as the names of the letters.20140516-161442.jpg

Again, I could add more amazing feats: The Boy recognises all of the names of the other children in his class as well as his own when he sees them written down on labels around the school, as well as the names of all our favourite supermarkets on pots of jam and freezer bags. He has started recognising words in books and wanting to copy them with his letter puzzle.

Besides all this the teacher said the Boy was very musical, had amazing recall and picked things up very quickly.

What I wasn’t prepared for was his top astounding skill.

Apparently, most 3 or even 4 year olds don’t cut around things, just through them. Who knew? That same morning the Boy had been crying because he couldn’t perfectly cut around each petal of a flower and asked me to do the tricky bits where the scissors turn the corner. After the review I made sure the Boy knew how clever he was to even follow the petals at all.

So what does he need to work on? You’ll all be pleased to hear that socially and behaviourally the Boy is just your average 3 year old, who does as he is told for five seconds before testing out if the embargo on running indoors has been lifted yet. He has plenty to learn still at pre-school about being part of a group, respecting the rules and doing as he is asked.

While we talked, the Boy was helpfully stacking up all the little chairs, obviously getting straight on his action plan.

I looked at my bright little boy, bursting with pride. “Look what I made!” I was thinking. “Isn’t he great?”

 

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3 Children and It

 

Miniature Mathematical Genius: Will my son end up being an accountant?

photo 2

Just before the Boy was born, I remember the Husband and I were out having a curry one night and we talked about our hopes and dreams for our son: the kind of parents we wanted to be and all the mistakes other parents made that we were obviously never going to replicate.

One of the things we talked about was: what do you think he might want to be when he grows up? We started off daydreaming about our son taking our own roads-not-travelled. Maybe, my husband thought, he’ll study military history. Or maybe, I mused, he will learn lots of languages and become a diplomat.

“But you know,” my husband cautioned, “we have to be prepared for the fact that he might be very different from us. We want to support him whatever he chooses to do in life.”

“Yes,” I nodded fervently, ever the tolerant Dutch-person. “Even if he wants to do sports.”

We grinned. We both hate sports.

“Maybe he’ll want to study Chemistry!” I suggested.

We tittered. Chemistry, how dull.

“You never know,” my husband said, scratching around now for something utterly outrageous, something no sensible arty-farty parent could ever support, “he might want to become an accountant.

How we laughed, dear reader.

Fast forward three years, and my husband has just picked up our son from pre-school. I am at work. Inspired by this fact, they are having a conversation about work, and at the Boy’s suggestion that perhaps he could do some work my husband starts explaining that you have to be a bit older. Some people start work at sixteen, some at eightteen, some at twenty-one…

The Boy nods sagely.  “When I am be twenty-one, I go to work.”

The Husband: “And what kind of work would you like to do?”

The Boy, without hesitation: “Numbers.”

“Would you like to tell other people about numbers, or do you want to do numbers by yourself?”

Again, the Boy is ready with his answer: “Numbers by myself”.

You guessed it. The Boy really does want to be an accountant.

It’s not surprising really, because he just loves numbers. Nothing fascinates him more. They are his friends, they make the world exciting and comforting at the same time. I recently went to an information morning about how Maths is taught in primary schools these days and we were given some handouts that the children might get in school: pages full of number lines and multiplication squares and rulers. I knew I would have a very happy boy when I got home and I was not wrong. We put all the handouts in a special folder for the Boy’s “Work” and now he likes to get it out importantly and pore over the Pages of Joy.

Maths - the Boy is in heaven

The love affair started almost as soon as he could talk. The Boy could count to ten fairly flawlessly before he was two, and has since moved on to bigger and better things. He now startles teachers and hairdressers by counting to 100, simply to amuse himself. In fact, he can count to one hundred in English and in Dutch. A few months ago he still had some interference issues, as in Dutch you say “three and twenty” where in English it would be “twenty-three”. This would sometimes cause alarm when he was reading out my friend J’s digital speedometer on the way to pre-school and confidently announce that it said “Eighty-two!” (I should just stress, for the benefit of my friend’s husband who is a police officer, that it really was the Boy’s error and she was doing a very conservative 28 mph).

However, he seems to be on top of the distinction now and doesn’t swap the numbers around any more. He has become quite enamoured of finding big numbers and will announce with glee that he loves me “one hundred”, and when entering a room full of people he will say in a (rather loud) awed voice: “There are thousands of them!”

At just over two years old he amazed me by taking a piece of chalk and writing the numbers from one to ten on the pavement as we walked along. He has been practising and perfecting this skill ever since. Last week I was sitting next to him at the table doing some work and he was busy with paper and a pen. I looked over and he had done this:

photo 3

It turned out to be a plan for the day, which he explained: “Step 1: Go to the moon. Step 2: Go to Nediland [The Netherlands]. Step 3: Go back home. Step 4: Is a surprise.”

Really, everything to do with maths is exciting to him. He loves going round with my tape measure to measure things and likes to spot shapes where ever we go. “Look Mummy, a trapezium!” he shouts from the back seat of the car, pointing at my rear view mirror. It’s only a matter of time, we think, before he’ll start adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing and calculating the decay rate of gamma radiation in preparation for the nuclear apocalypse.

The other day in the car he was again musing on what life would be like when he was older. “Next week is my birthday!” he said. (It wasn’t) “And then I be 4, and then I be 5, and then I be 6…” (This was where I tuned out for a while.) “…and then I be 21 and I go to work…” The counting continued with this addition (“and then I be 43 and I go to work, and then I be 44 and I go to work”) until he arrived at: “…and then I be one hundred!”

“Well, when you’re 100 you won’t have to work,” I said. “You can have a nice rest.”

“Yes! Then I can have a nice rest.

I quickly switched the radio on at this point, to ensure that we did, just for a moment, have a nice rest from the counting. Don’t get me wrong, I am very proud of his skills, but let’s face it: (ac)counting is a bit boring.

All the numbers had to come into the kitchen at Opa & Oma's house to join in with lunch.

All the numbers had to come into the kitchen at Opa & Oma’s house to join in with lunch.

This is what Play Doh was made for

This is what Play Doh was made for. Outside the frame the line goes on to twenty…

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3 Children and It

Team Kingston does Stamptastic

label Stamptastic

Sunday night. I pull three only-slightly-damp pairs of trousers off the drying rack: one for the Boy to wear to pre-school tomorrow and two to pack in his bag for the inevitable accidents. I quickly check the labels and realise that two out of the three pairs are rogue – they have somehow escaped The Great Name Marking ceremony. Do you WEARILY PICK UP A BIRO? Go to page 2. Or do you TRY YOUR NEW STAMPS? Go to page 45.

Perhaps you will remember my wistful musings on the eve of my 3 year old’s first day at pre-school. Many of you commented on your own feelings at seeing your first-born head off into a new independence, or having to wave goodbye to your littlest child. Others commented on my struggles to mark every wretched item of clothing the Boy owned with his name, armed only with a biro. Overwhelmingly, you recommended a company called Stamptastic, saying how they had taken the pain out of labelling.

It sounded promising and I would probably have gone to check them out anyway, when they beat me to it and offered to send me a set of stamps to try out and review. As I watched my son’s name fade from his far-too-frequently-washed wee-soaked trousers day by day, I felt there was no time to lose and I wrote back saying yes please.

While I eagerly awaited the arrival of the stamps, the Boy started puzzling out what I had written in shaky writing on his lunch box and in his clothes. He recognised his first name, but pointed at the second word: “What you writing this one, Mama?”

“Kingston,” I explained. “That’s your name. And Mummy’s name, and Daddy’s name, and your sister’s name. It’s our special family name.”

“S. Kingston.” He tasted it. He decided he liked it. For the next few weeks he kept randomly announcing his full name, with great pride. Then he would explain to me, as if I wasn’t already aware, that his sister was A. Kingston, that I was “Mummy Kingston” and the Husband was “Daddy Kingston”.

Then he became curious about his friends. He had clearly grasped the principle of a family name pretty well, because he knew they would not be called Kingston. We had to run through everyone he could think of, and he tried and tasted their names and rehearsed them for me. The concept was not only instantly clear to him, but also instantly useful. Now, we could be a team. We adapted the Team Umizoomi song for all our errands: “Who’s going to take baby clothes to M? We are! Team Kingston!” (I know, it doesn’t scan, quit bugging me.) On the phone to Gran, he told her about his new discovery as well, and not only was she suitably impressed, but she managed to astound the Boy afresh by revealing that she was a Kingston herself: Gran Kingston (of course).

Then, amidst all the last name excitement, a padded envelope dropped on the mat one afternoon. I knew instantly what it was and saved it up until the kids had gone to bed. I got their new coats and laid them out on the floor, ready to give my Stamptastic stamps a trial run.

Of course, when given amazing ink that works on plastic, fabric and wood and that doesn’t wash off, the first thing I manage to do is this:

D'oh!

D’oh!

I was kicking myself, but then thought that perhaps it was a good thing, as someone looking for a review online might be desperate to know how to get Stamptastic ink off their finger, so I felt it was my duty to try various cleaning methods and report on the result. Turned out serial hand-washing, including scrubbing with a washing up brush, combined with the good ole’ passage of time got it off just fine. I also imagine that if you had white spirit around it would come off in seconds.

That done, I could get down to business. I am far too impatient to read instructions, but thankfully it was all quite straightforward and definitely easier to work out than breastfeeding. These were the tools provided:

the gear Stamptastic

 

I simply put ink onto the stamp with my son’s name, placed the stamp onto the label Sainsbury’s had thoughtfully provided in the coat (see first picture) and pressed down. The stamps are see through, so you can look through the top to make sure you have positioned it correctly. Not really needed for the coat, but once I had labelled that so beautifully I went round the house in excitement to see what else I could put the Boy’s name on, and found that you really need to be able to look through your stamp for the tiny labels in pairs of underpants and woolly hats.

In addition to handling indelible ink with care and reading instructions, I am also not so great at tidying up after myself, so the next morning the Boy found the stamps on the dining table.

“What you got there, Mummy?” he wanted to know and without waiting for an answer set about investigating for himself. “Oh! My name!” He watched in amazement as I demonstrated what I could do with the ink and his name.

“I try it, Mummy?” was of course what came next.

But Mummy said no.

He was desperately sad that I wouldn’t let him stamp his full name all over every piece of paper in the house. Although I am sure that for every person Googling ‘get ink off my finger’ there are probably 10 people looking for ways to ‘get Stamptastic ink off my pre-schooler’s fingers’, I felt that was taking my service to society a bridge too far. He would have to make do with staring proudly at his name stamped lovingly into his slightly damp trousers by his mother. And again later in the day when changing into a clean pair. And probably again just before home time when the long suffering teachers hoist him into his very final clean – and clearly labelled – pair of trousers.

I received two free name stamps and an ink pad from the wonderful Stamptastic to review on the understanding that I would give my honest opinion, which I have. Sainsbury’s sadly didn’t give me a free coat, I just magnanimously threw their name in of my own free will. You’re welcome, Sainsbury’s.

Dawn of a New Era: Pre-School

20140106-223756.jpgSunday evening, five to midnight, found me learning a new skill. I was attempting to write my son’s name in biro on tiny white spaces on the washing/brand labels in his clothing. I discovered:

* labels don’t stay put while you are writing on them
* trying to keep them in one place means your fingers are taking up 2/3 of the available space to write on
* most labels somehow magically prevent loops and up-strokes, allowing only a kind of katakana-capital-letter-hieroglyphic writing

I also put his name on a tired tupperware pot filled with three (3) mini rice cakes (apple flavour), one (1) dried apricot, a little pack of raisins and a broken Jacobs Water cracker. I learned another lesson when I examined the pot again in the morning: you don’t put dried fruit and crumbly crackers in the same pot as they amalgamate into a new and unappetising species overnight.

I filled in all the forms, and discovered – too late – that I should have photocopied his birth certificate. Which also meant finding his birth certificate. I decided this would just have to wait a few more days.

Then, I did the washing up.

Then I had run out of busy work and had to stop and realise: my son was going to start pre-school in the morning. Every morning. From now on until eternity.

I suddenly understood why I had been feeling so sad all day. Optimist that I am, up to that point I had only been looking at the advantages and benefits of having mornings free of increasingly articulate demands for snacks, Team Umizoomi and general undivided attention; free of trying to tactfully break up tiny-toddler-crushing hugs that are meant well but could cause serious injury, possibly death; free of constant denial for the need of a toilet trip, followed by yet another clean pair of trousers and another load of washing to put on; free of sudden rage, tears, remorse, saying sorry, then juice and hugs (and that is just me). In short, mornings when my confident, independent little girl can play and then (blissfully) nap, while I do freelance work, lesson prep and writing. It had all sounded so good up until then. But suddenly it hit me that these would also be mornings without sudden sneak attacks of affection, without puzzles and games with a little boy that gets these things now, without a window into his hilarious imagination, without a little voice at my elbow, offering to help me with the chores.

I smoothed his labelled clothes once more, added another few pairs of clean underpants to his George Pig backpack and went to bed. All night I had anxiety dreams in which I just could not leave the pre-school, or had said I would look after a friend’s child at the same school but lost him, and most importantly, in which I had forgotten to label an essential item of clothing.

At 6.45, the Boy woke up full of excitement, untroubled by visions of disaster. He was looking forward to school. Once we arrived he headed straight for the sand table and barely looked up when I said goodbye.

Happy feet, dancing in Happyland

Happy feet, dancing in Happyland

At home, time passed quickly. The Girl kicked off her “zhuzh” with a little cry of glee and ran from toy to toy, unable to decide which one to play with first now that no one was about to snatch them off her. In fact, she did an adorable little dance in the centre of the room, which I freely interpreted as her Happy Dance, to celebrate a brother-free morning. After a little play and a snack, I put her down for a (very) early nap and did a good hour of work. Before I knew it, it was time to collect the Boy again.

He was touchingly delighted to see us. He ran into my arms, then hugged and hugged his sister and gave her kisses. He had had a wonderful time but was pleased that we were back.

Tomorrow, we do the whole thing again. And the day after and the day after that.

The whole thing feels strange, like I have forgotten something – left my wallet at home, or my shoes in the car. The house is eerily quiet. The Numberjacks lie on the sofa, lifeless, just toys now. The TV is off.

So I sit at my laptop, doing work, sipping a hot cup of tea, and grieving. It’s only the morning, only a few hours that pass in a flash. And yet, I feel like I have lost my shadow.