Wednesday, 24 June 2009

When too much choice is Not a Good Thing

In the beginning, there was Breakfast. And it was good and wholesome, and the children thrived. And the mother smiled, and there was peace in the household.

And then one day, alas! TV, the Great Tempter, whispered unto the children, “The mother seeks to keep you in ignorance, that you may not know the joys of multicoloured breakfast cereals. For behold, they come in many flavours, all of them sugar-laden, and yea, though they may be bereft of all nutrition, yet are they pleasing to the palate.”

And the children looked, and saw that all that the TV spake was true, even unto the chocolate-flavoured cereals, and there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

So the mother, moved by the piteous cries of her children, relented and said that they might have the cereals of many colours on weekends only. But still the children wailed, so the mother allowed the cereals of tooth decay and damnation for the whole school holildays as well, yet still the children were not comforted.

So the mother went in search of the Holy Grail – the cereal that would delight her children with its taste while still pleasing in its nutritional value. Alas! though the mother trod the grocery aisles till her feet bled, the Holy Grail eluded her, and though she offered many a compromise to her children, still nothing pleased them as the Cereals of Decay and Damnation had.

And so it came to pass that the pantry filled up with half-eaten boxes of cereal, even unto the width of the top shelf, and also with many tins of different types of spaghetti and beans. And the freezer did groan under the weight of different styles of bread, to tempt the children’s appetites.

And Breakfast, once so wholesome and pleasing, became a time of great trial for the mother and the father. Though the breakfast offerings were as numerous as the stars or the grains of sand on the shore, still the children looked on them and were displeased.

And they took a damn long time making up their minds, too.

Scene: Demon Duck’s bedroom. Demon Duck is sloooowly dressing for school.

Normal Sane Mother: What would you like for breakfast?
Demon Duck: Mutter mutter.
Normal Sane Mother: Pardon?
Demon Duck (sullen): Peanut butter on microwaved bread.
Normal Sane Mother: What’s that face for?
Demon Duck (emoting): Cause I’ve had it every day for a week!

[Evidence is mounting that the wrong child is nicknamed Drama Duck.]

Normal Sane Mother: Then have something else. Have spaghetti, or weetbix.
Demon Duck (tragic): All right. I’ll have mutter mutter.

[In the blink of an eye, Normal Sane Mother transforms into Screaming Banshee Woman. The look of surprise on Demon Duck’s face would be funny if Screaming Banshee Woman wasn’t too busy bursting blood vessels to appreciate humour.]

Screaming Banshee Woman (at top of lungs): Just … [last remnants of sanity engage in desperate scramble to prevent Bad Words coming out] TELL ME what you want for breakfast so I can HEAR YOU without all this MUMBLING!!!!

[Screaming Banshee Woman exits, in direction of kitchen, though not before fighting down a powerful urge to punch the wall.]

Enter Baby Duck.

Seething Mother: What would you like for breakfast?
Baby Duck: Toast with peanut butter.
Seething Mother (speaking from bitter experience): Do you mean toast or microwaved bread?
Baby Duck (for at least the 183rd time): Confused expression
Seething Mother: It’s not that difficult. Microwaved bread is soft. We do it in the microwave and it’s bread. Toast goes in the toaster and it’s hard and brown and it’s TOAST. WHICH ONE do you want?

Then the mother saw the light, and in a mighty voice spoke unto the children: “From this day forth, let all partake of the Weetbix for breakfast, that all may know its nutritional blessing, and that peace may once again descend on our household.”

And there was much weeping and lamenting for the lost pleasures of Spending Hours Each Morning Choosing What to Have for Breakfast. But the mother looked on the children’s sorrow and was unmoved.

See? Lots of choice isn’t always a good thing.

Tomorrow breakfast will be nutritious and calm. Calm as in everyone will be too busy directing burning looks of bitter resentment at their Loathsome Mother to speak. She will have to wear her special Anti-Venomous-Looks Armour.

And yes, I am feeling a little stressed lately. Why do you ask?

Thursday, 18 June 2009

The Adventures of Sparklebum

I realise it’s childish of me, but just typing that title makes me smile. Imagine how much fun I’m going to have writing the story!

Drama Duck was wearing a pair of glittery jeans the other day and I started calling her Sparklebum. This led to a very silly conversation where we decided that Sparklebum would make a great name for a fairy. Poor Sparklebum! The other fairies twinkled all over, but alas! her twinkles were confined to just one spot …

We agreed that we’d both write a story featuring the adventures of Sparklebum. There’s nothing like a hint of competition to get the creative juices flowing! Baby Duck was keen to help too, though his contributions were mainly along the lines of “and then Sparklebum did a really big sparkly smell and saved all the other fairies”. Small boys and toilet humour = a match made in heaven.

I was thinking of having Sparklebum being the only fairy able to save fairyland because of her peculiarities. Your typical “and then all the other fairies learned to accept Sparklebum just as she was” thing. But then I thought … naaah. Forget parental propaganda. Let’s have some fun. Let’s make her really naughty.

So I don’t know where Sparklebum is going to end up. I had the first line of The Hobbit running through my head yesterday, so this is where she starts at the moment:

“In a hole in a tree there lived a fairy. It was a very large hole for such a small creature; it could easily have fit a whole family of owls or possums, but Sparklebum lived there alone. The fairy council had thrown her out of Daffodillia when she was only little, which seems cruel, but it was either that or nobody in the fairy city would ever have got a wink of sleep again, due to
Sparklebum’s rather unfortunate affliction.”

Okay, Drama Duck, over to you.

For fear that my ten-year-old may outdo me, more helpful suggestions for Sparklebum’s adventures than Baby Duck’s will be warmly welcomed in the comments …

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Methuselah, eat your heart out

I remember when I was a kid, how old everyone over the age of, say, 14, was. Twenty-year-olds were indistinguishable from 60-year-olds. They all just belonged to the category “ancient”. I’d be reading the newspaper and find some story about a 25-year-old killed in a car crash and think, “Oh well, at least it wasn’t anybody young. At least she’d lived.”

Baby Duck made a birthday card for his beloved teacher last term. She can’t be any more than late twenties, if that. He drew a careful picture of her blowing out her candles on the front of the card. The candles were those ones you get in the shape of numbers.

“How old do you think Mrs F is?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said, “so I just picked a really big number.”

The numbers said “81”.

The other day he was eating a bowl of grapes and I took one. Very magnanimously, he offered to share the bowl. Mindful of all that positive parenting advice that says you should praise behaviour you would like to encourage, I told him how kind he was to share.

“I want to be really nice to you while I still can,” he confided.

“Do you mean before you grow up and move out?” I asked.

“Mmm. And before you die.”

Guess I’d better book my spot in the retirement village soon. Fortunately for my battered ego, Demon Duck was given an email account at school last week. She spent the weekend emailing sweet messages to everyone she could think of.

One of the ones I received said:

“i love you mummy. it's like you are a star and i am a twinkle. when we get together we shimmer and shine. that's why i love you so much.”

Much better to be a star than hovering on the brink of death! I feel better already.