When you plan to have children, you generally have an idea of what children are like (some might even say you think you’re ‘prepared’ or ‘an expert’. Pah!) I was one of those people.
Unashamedly I was a ‘When I’m a parent I won’t let that happen’ type of gal. I cringe when I think back to my pre-baby self about how naïve, patronising and downright irritating I was. Luckily I kept most of these thoughts to myself. Otherwise, I may not have had any friends.
My children were never going to have tantrums at the meal table. (We once had to eat a meal in shifts as our older daughter was screaming so badly every table in the place was looking at us in horror.)
They wouldn’t ask impertinent questions.(‘Is that a man or a lady?’ ‘Have you brought me a present?’ ‘Why is your tummy so fat?’ ‘When are you going to get married?’
They would eat a balanced, nutritious diet and appreciate the importance of good food. (I’m not even going into the blueberries and ketchup incident: it’s filed under ‘didn’t happen’)
They would watch television in moderation. (I have to do stuff. Seriously, how do you do stuff without TV??)
I digress. What never fails to surprise me even now, is what they like to entertain themselves with. They are lucky children, they have lovely toys books and games and to be fair, spend a great deal of time playing with them. But there’s always something, that catches me by surprise. Last month our youngest (at 20 months) spent a good few hours carting round our Sweetex packet and two odd socks. These were her ‘doggy’. She ignored everyone and everything to take this doggy for a walk, fed it enthusiastically with small purple mosaic tiles (don’t ask) and barked (much like said dog) should anyone dare to approach them.
Just this week, my husband (at 6am) was looking for a spare passport photo which he needed for a work thing. When the children came down for breakfast they couldn’t believe the excitement.
‘A passport photo. Of me, I need this one for work.’
Eyeing the remaining two photos ‘WOW! Can I have one?’
‘Um… ok? Does it matter that I look like a suspect off Crimewatch?’
‘No.’ Clutching prized passport photo ‘AWESOME!’
Middle child ‘I WANT ONE!’
And that’s how it went. Random Tuesday morning made perfect by getting a dodgy photo of Daddy looking like he’s convicted of some sort of crime.
He trotted off to work and thought no more of it. Invariably there was soon a fight between the three of them as there were only 2 photos. Breaking up one of the more violent outbursts I asked our boy what the big deal was. ‘It’s so I have something to remember him by if he dies!’ Right, ok.
So… what was your father like?
Well, he had freakishly big eyes, a strange open mouthed gape and may have committed some kind of fraud…
I managed to convince him to leave the photo on the fridge in a ‘safe place’ to avoid a safeguarding incident at school and he went in without further incident.
Upon arriving at the childminder’s with the girls, our older daughter shiftily snuck in without a word goodbye. Suspicious.
‘Hand it over…’ Innocent expression. I held out my hand. Reluctantly my daughter opened her clenched fist. Crumpled and creased, bug eyed and startled was Daddy staring up at us. In creases, the childminder distracted her long enough to get the photo to me and I slid it into the pocket in the front of my trousers and uttered a solemn promise not to:
a) Lose it.
b) Let the children I teach steal it.
c) Steal it myself.
After a few more reassurances she bid fond farewell to Crimewatch Daddy and I could finally get on with my day. I quickly forgot about it and would have been at serious risk of breaking promise a) had I not related the story to friends at work (and shared the photo – obviously). The day stepped up a gear and I was in the throes of observing our trainee with a class and Crimewatch Daddy couldn’t have been further from my mind.
‘Psst. Miss!’ Disapproving look and a discreet gesture to the teacher leading the lesson.Persistent ‘Missssss!’
‘What is it?! If you have a question ask the teacher leading. But hang on until she has finished this bit.’
‘I don’t think she’ll be able to answer my question…’
Resigned. ‘What is your question?’
Looking at my pocket ‘Who is that scary man and why is he peeping out of your pocket?’
Teaching and parenting can often be quite similar: sometimes you just don’t have a credible answer.