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  • jdettmann

Follow Your Arrow


I think I’ve figured out why smart parents make their kids listen to kids’ music. It’s so you can have conversations about how yes, the Wiggles are right, fruit salad is yummy yummy, instead of conversations like we had the other night.

We were listening to the Smiths while the kids ate fifty bowls of soba noodles and pushed their tofu around, before declaring it ‘Not to my taste’ (May Blossom) and ‘Plurgh yuck! (Garnet). I sat there silently willing them to eat the tofu so H and I wouldn’t have to and we could order takeaway for dinner.

‘Mummy,’ May Blossom asked, ‘Why does he say that if it’s not love then it’s the bomb that will keep us together?

‘Um, I don’t really know,’ I said. ‘Maybe he means unless we all love each other there will be wars and in wars there are bombs and we will be united by the fact that a bomb blows us all up.’

She considered that. ‘But there are other weapons in wars, you know, not just bombs. There are also swords and bows and arrows and stuff.’

Yes, there are,’ I said. ‘But bombs are much more destructive than swords and bows and arrows. You can kill a lot more people with a bomb than with a bow and arrow.’

‘People could also die of being afraid, in a war,’ she told me. ‘They could just die because they are so afraid.’

Before I could respond, Garnet, who likes to enter conversations like nine rhinos in drag driving a Ferrari, piped up and asked ‘Have you ever seen an angry rooster?’ Then he did a convincing impression of an angry rooster.

That chat left me immediately unsettled, scared for the children of the world and worried about bombs and about my little girl and what’s going on in her head. May Blossom went about her business for the rest of the evening, until just before bedtime, when she collapsed in tears because the thought of having to go to school next year, five days a week, FOREVER, was too much for her to bear. I can see where she’s coming from. I managed to refrain from trying to comfort her by saying it’s not forever, it’s only thirteen years, because for heaven’s sake, the child is not even five yet. That’s almost three times her lifespan to date. What a horrifying concept.

She’s been bursting into tears a lot recently, and telling me that I don’t love her and she wishes Garnet had never been born and she wants to run away from home. I’m starting to realise that she is a bit stressed out. At four. There is a lot of stuff going on at her kindy at the moment, including the kind of friendship issues that you wouldn’t think would start until the teenage years, and it’s making her very confused and sad. I’m trying to be understanding, comforting and kind and rational, and not go throw sand in the faces of the offending children. Because you know, got to set a good example, teach her to fight her own battles and all that. And it’s not going to help her playground cred if Mummy gets arrested.

My sadness over what’s happening at kindy is obviously being compounded and magnified by what’s going on in the world at large – specifically it all going to hell in a handbasket. I swing wildly between thinking that if a privileged white four year old in a wealthy part of a peaceful democratic western country can’t have a nice time in a play-based preschool then there is no hope for anyone or anything, and thinking that we should all seriously buck the fuck up because this problem is so, so small in the scheme of things. This is a tiny fecal particle compared to the overwhelming torrents of shit the rest of the world is experiencing.

I’m trying not to add to May Blossom’s woes by telling her too much about the refugee crisis, because she is the responsible type who will take the weight of the world on her shoulders, given half a chance, but we did take her and Garnet to a Light the Dark vigil last week.

The vigil was held in response to the publication of the photograph of the body of Aylan Kurdi, the young Syrian refugee who died while his family was trying to reach Europe. It was a moving and beautiful gathering of several thousand people in Hyde Park, Sydney, with a few speakers and a lot of quiet candle holding.

While Reverend Rod Bower (the bloke who does all those excellent signs outside the Gosford Anglican Church) was speaking, May Blossom listened intently, holding her candle straight up in the air, then turned to ask me if that was ‘Martin King’. No, I told her, he isn’t alive any more, but this might have been the sort of thing he would be upset about too.

This past weekend H and I bought May Blossom a bow and arrow, thereby breaking our ‘no toy weapons’ rule. I’m so glad we did. She spent several hours each day sitting up a tree in the garden firing arrows at various targets and mostly obeyed our instructions not to shoot at people. (I did overhear her tell Garnet, ‘You’re too small to be a target’ but in the interest of peace and harmony I let that slide.) Each time she fired she then shouted ‘Fetch!’ and her faithful brother trotted off and retrieved the arrow for her. Who would fetch your arrows if he had never been born, eh, May Blossom?

It turns out a bit of archery was just the ticket. I think it made her feel powerful and skilful, at a time when lots of things feel out of her control. I might try it. Suction-tipped archery might be the new meditation.

Not all my responses to this small May-Blossom crisis have worked out as well. After we had the Smiths’-inspired conversation about bombs and war, I swung too far the other way and introduced her to the Spice Girls. In hindsight, this was a terrible thing to do. She really likes them. I’m thinking of making her an archery target with their pictures on it. Or is that sending the wrong message? This parenting thing is hard.

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