Last week Garnet turned three. He’s not a hundred per cent ok with that. The boy has a complicated relationship with the ageing process. He likes being three, but he wants to be a three-year-old baby. In all the games he and his friends play, he must play the baby. The baby pirate. The baby brother in Peter Pan. Baby Cottontail in Peter Rabbit. He’s dipping his toe into the world of superheroes with a character he has invented called – you guessed it – Superbaby. He gets strangely cross when people call him a big boy.
About a month ago he toilet trained, and apart from a small amount of unorthodox backward loo sitting and a misunderstanding about where you are supposed to stand during a standing-up wee (tip: not on the toilet seat) it went off without a hitch. I heaped praise upon him, as you are supposed to, telling him over and over what a good big boy he is now and wow, what a grown-up fellow, gosh. He didn’t respond with ecstatic pride like I expected, instead getting very quiet. After a day or so he finally said, ‘Mummy, can I please not be a big boy? Can I just be a little boy who wears underpants?’ Sure, be a little boy who wears underpants and MAKES HIS MOTHER’S HEART EXPLODE WITH THE CUTENESS. I think the subtext there was also ‘Please could you shut up about my undies and my age and just let a person’s toiletting habits be his own business?’ And of course I can. You know, except for blogging about it, obviously.
H and I have developed a tradition of decorating our kids’ room when they are asleep, the night before they have a birthday. We festooned the ceiling with blue balloons for May Blossom’s birthday and she was determined that she would be involved in the late-night decorating for Garnet. We promised her we would wake her up after he went to sleep so she could help string up orange balloons and streamers. This was an idiotic thing to promise. If there’s one thing my daughter likes less than going to sleep, it’s waking up . H shook her and talked to her and poked her but she was out for the count, and short of propping her up Weekend at Bernie’s-style, there was nothing to be done. Of course that meant that come four forty-five the next morning she was standing by my face sobbing, so that got Garnet’s birthday off to a flying start.
This year Garnet’s wish list of presents was weird. He asked for a butterfly net, a walking stick, a trumpet and a box of chocolates. You would be forgiven for thinking it was the birthday list of a wealthy consumptive child in a Swiss sanatorium. Of the things on that list he got two: some chocolates and a butterfly net. He stalks around the house scooping things up with the net, muttering like a dad fishing leaves out the pool he regrets installing, or he slings it over his shoulder and uses it to carry things, like the Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek.
We also got him a bike. It’s a Thomas the Tank Engine bike, which was the least offensive one I could find at Kmart. H and I assembled it with an impressive combination of wits and wine the night before his birthday.
When we presented it to our big/little/boy/baby the next morning, his face lit up and he exclaimed, ‘Oh! A Shaun the Sheep bike! I love it!’.
‘No, love, it’s got Tom the Train on it, see?’ We showed him the self-satisfied little putty face of Thomas on the handlebars, pedals, seat and about eight other places. We thought perhaps he was confused by the after-factory pimping we’d done with handlebar streamers and a pink basket with a daisy on it.
‘Thank you for my Shaun the Sheep bike,’ he said pointedly.
Wot? Then the penny dropped. This kid is a master of magical thinking. He wanted a Shaun the Sheep bike. This was going to be a Shaun the Sheep bike. If only we would all stop bloody pointing out that it wasn’t.
He did it again later when one grandmother gave him a Thomas the Tank Engine ball and the other grandmother gave him a Thomas face washer. Two more piece of Shaun the Sheep merchandise! Life’s a treat!
I think he’s on to something. I’m going to try it at Christmas. If any gift is not what I would like, I shall simply pretend it is.
If I open a copy of The Assasin by Clive Cussler, I will clap my hands and exclaim, ‘How lovely! These will be delicious after dinner! We must all share them.’
If it’s a candle that smells like papaya creme brûlée, I’ll say “I love it! It fits perfectly.’
I will seem both gracious and insane, which is pretty much the best you can hope for, come Christmas morning.