Do As I Say, Not As I Do.
Last week I was grating a raw beetroot into a pot of soup (this soup, incidentally, which is so delicious I almost ate H’s portion before he got home — the beetroot is my addition, because it was lurking in the compost drawer of the fridge). May Blossom was sitting at the kitchen table eating her dinner.
When she saw me with blood red hands, dropping what looked for all the world like shreds of myself into the pot, firstly, and very sensibly, she freaked out. She burst into tears, wringing her hands and crying ‘Ow, Mummy. OW!’ I stopped at once and washed my hands, showed her that most of it was washing off and she calmed down.
She finished her dinner and went about her business, which at the moment is drawing. She is the proud and dangerous owner of a packet of Crayola washable marker pens, which she adores.* When armed with them she tends to spend a lot of time colouring in her hands and arms, which is all great and developmentally appropriate and hooray for kids exploring what different tools do and learning about their bodies but man I get tired of scrubbing that crap off. Whenever she does it I show her the paper again and using nice non-judgemental language I say ‘The paper is for drawing on, darling. We don’t draw on our hands.’ The first thirty times, anyway. After that I just bark in a scary teacher voice ‘UH-UH! NO! PAPER.’ It’s shorthand. She gets it.
The evening of the beetroot meltdown, she went off to draw with crayons, because there is only so much marker-pen policing I can handle so they had been sent to live in the penitentiary (groan) in the hall cupboard. As anyone who has been a child knows, crayons are rubbish, and really only good for stuffing into a ukelele or grinding into the carpet, so the drawing session didn’t last long.
Soon it was time to sit on the front step. We do that a lot. We have to keep track of all the dogs and kids and neighbours and uncles who pass by every evening. May Blossom is a one-kid neighbourhood watch. There wasn’t much happening, so she picked up my hand.
It was stained red. Her little face looked up at me, her brow furrowed. She held my hand up so I could see it and in a voice loaded with undisguised disappointment, she said, ‘Mummy. Drawing?’ I swear she shook her head at me. She doesn’t know the word hypocrite yet, but I could tell she was thinking it anyway.
*Since writing this post this morning, my mother has returned from America bearing a box of 64 more of these devil’s sticks. They are going straight to the back of the cupboard.