Tag Archives: parenthood

10 Short Takes … On Harry

10shorttakes

This is embarrassing.  I came up with the idea for 10 Short Takes ages ago, thinking it would become a regular thing (not just for me, but for the entire internet).  And then I just sorta forgot about it.  But now I’m going to take it out and dust it off, because I thought of something else I could do with it.  So here are 10 Short Takes on my magnificent five-year-old, Harry.

 

  1. Harry does not enjoy dressing up.  Remember Book Week?  Recently, Harry’s kinder did a pirate day.   I tried to tempt him with skull bandannas and stripy tops, but Harry politely declined and insisted on his faithful dinosaur t-shirt/tracksuit pants ensemble.  When I came to pick him up at the end of the day, Harry was the only one not sporting a cardboard hat and/or eyepatch.  He was just Harry.paper pirate hat
  2. The following day (AKA not Pirate Day), Harry made a beeline for the craft table as soon as he arrived at kinder and constructed a pirate hat for himself. He wore it all day and has been wearing it off-and-on ever since.  I guess you could call him a late adopter…
  3. Harry worships his daddy.  Daddy features in most of Harry’s pictures and the only dress-up in the box Harry is interested in is an old, white business shirt.  When Annie wears this shirt, she is a doctor or a rocket scientist.  When Harry wears it, he is only ever Daddy Going to Work.
  4. Harry loves clocks. For a while, he took to wearing an analogue watch with no batteries.  Whenever he entered a room with a clock on the wall, he would adjust his watch accordingly.  For his birthday, Harry’s grandparent’s gave him a proper watch with batteries and everything.  It’s digital and the screen can light up in different colours.  This is the joy of Harry’s life, although he still wears the dead analogue watch sometimes, for old time’s sake.Harry's watches
  5. Harry’s uncle also likes clocks. He has a collection of expensive watches from Japan.  Harry enjoys sidling up to Uncle Greg and comparing watch features (Greg’s watch has GPS, Harry’s watch can make a cool beeping noise).  I think Greg enjoys this too.
  6. Harry’s favourite television show is Letters and Numbers on SBS.
  7. Harry and Annie are fast friends, though polar opposites. Annie is quite assertive and extroverted and loves to perform to a crowd.  Harry is introverted and can take a while to warm up to people he doesn’t know.  When Harry is feeling out of his comfort zone, he sticks with Annie to feel safe.
  8. Harry and Annie are also partners in crime. Recently, I caught them out.  Annie had helped Harry to push a stool into the pantry.  Harry climbed the stool to access a miniature green tea Kit Kat from a bag of treats Uncle Greg had brought us from Japan.  This he promptly unwrapped and snapped in two, giving half to his sister.I probably should have told them off more, but they were so darn cute solemnly munching their spoils that my heart just wasn’t in it.
  9. Harry’s favourite colour is dark brown.
  10. Harry does not like noisy crowds. When amongst loud strangers (or, indeed, loud friends and family), Harry will either sit quietly with his hands over his ears (a gesture Annie will often imitate, assuming she hasn’t managed to command the crowd’s attention so that she can sing them her favourite song), or find someone he trusts to answer his maths questions.  Crowds can be unpredictable and loud, so it’s comforting to know that five plus two is still seven, regardless.
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Resolution

Pastel Fail

I’m really not enjoying the morning rush before school at the moment.  Today, I returned from my search for Christopher Robin’s grey socks to find Harry sitting in the corner at my little Repressed Creativity table with Mummy’s Special Oil Pastels spread all around him.  He had torn the wrapper off the one in his hand and held it in his two small fists.

“I snap it?”, he enquired animatedly, a mischievous glint in his eye.

“No!  Naughty!”, I exclaimed in horror.

“I snap it.”, the wretched imp asserted decisively and broke the pastel clean in half before tossing it on the table to join its fallen brothers.

I managed to get to Harry before he unwrapped his next victim, made a mess of disciplining him (it was mostly me shouting “how would you like me to break YOUR special toys??!” whilst Harry shook his head solemnly and reasoned “they’re MY toys, Mummy.”) and tried to salvage what was left of my lovely pastels.

As I matched aquamarine with aquamarine and crimson with crimson, it seemed a twelve-year-old version of myself manifested itself before my eyes.  There she stood, an awkward figure in her ill-fitting school uniform, clutching her A3 Spirax cartridge paper sketchbook and tin of 72 Derwent pencils to her chest.

“When was the last time you even USED those pastels?” she glowered at me,  “You haven’t even opened the box for months and months!  I think it’s been a YEAR!”

“Look, now’s really not a good time, Twelve-Year-Old Version Of Myself”, I muttered crossly.  And it wasn’t.  It was 8:25am and Matilda was still searching for her shoes, Christopher Robin’s reader still needed to be signed, Annie’s nappy was emitting a suspicious smell and Harry was off hunting for fresh mayhem.  But the sulky tween manifestation of my subconscious was insistent.

“Mrs Flannery said we were good at art.  She said it was in our soul

It was true.  I had a wonderful art teacher in Year Seven who had been kind and encouraging.  She had looked past my crippling shyness and made me feel like I was special.   And it was also true: I hadn’t used the pastels in at least a year.  My house seems full of empty sketchbooks, untouched paints and blank canvases that my twelve-year-old self would have itched to play with.

I could have argued that I didn’t have the time, that was my usual excuse, but I knew twelve-year-old Kate wouldn’t buy it.  The truth is, I’ve become terrified of Inner Critic.  Inner Critic is another version of myself (it’s very crowded to be me) who usually tells the Twelve Year Old to sit still and be quiet.  She also says things like “what if it turns out you’re no good at art?  Wouldn’t it be better not to try than to find out you’re only average?” and she sighs and sneers and rolls her eyes a lot.  It’s hard work keeping her happy.

Twelve-year-old Kate didn’t have an inner critic.  She just liked to play with colour.

Later, in that beautiful calm after Matilda and Christopher Robin were delivered safely to school, I formed a resolution.  Throughout the month of August, I will create some sort of art once a week, photograph it and post it on my blog.  And if Inner Critic has any comments to make, I’ll just say “quiet, you!”.  I’m a great admirer of proper-artist Ruby Hoppen, she is creating a portrait of her son every week this year.  It’s amazing to behold.  That’s where I got this idea.  But I won’t be doing portraits, and I’m only going for a month, but other than that…

If any other of you lovely bloggers would like to “play along”, please let me know in the comments and I’ll link to you.  You don’t have to be arty, that’s the whole point!  I think I’m going to call it “Art in August”.  Or maybe “Amateur Art in August”

artworkAnd, in celebration of this decision, here is my first piece.  It commemorates the destruction of my oil pastels and the miniature art festival this event inspired.

I call it “Shattered”.

Can’t wait till August!

Vegetarian Fail.

It all came to a head on Friday at 4:15pm.  Annie was crying in the highchair, Christopher Robin and Harry were practising extreme wrestling on the trampoline (“I wasn’t biting him, Mummy, I was hugging him with my teeth!”), I was desperately trying to get dinner together and Matilda was looking grave and pensive.

“Mummy,” she announced solemnly, “I’ve decided I want to be a vegetarian.”

Now, I can’t pretend I didn’t see this coming.  Earlier in the week, a sign at the butcher’s advertising “wild rabbits” sent a tired and tearful Matilda into hysterics (“you mean people KILL cute little bunny rabbits and then they EAT them?  That is just so MEAN!”) and no talk of ‘introduced species’ or ‘feral pests’ or ‘circle of’ bloody ‘life’ would calm her down.  The night before saw Matilda wide awake well past her bed time, wracked with guilt after eating a plateful of roast lamb (It was moist and nice and not at all burnt like last time)

So I knew Matilda had been considering vegetarianism.  I had already laid down the law that she couldn’t only choose to be vegetarian for some meals just to get out of eating them (like beef stew, which she calls “beef spew”),  I just hadn’t anticipated her making this commitment the day before shopping day – an hour before dinnertime – while I was elbow-deep in meatloaf.

So I scratched my head and had a think.  I had half a tin of lentils.  Surely that had to count for something.  Vegetarians are always banging on about lentils.  And I had a muffin tin.  Maybe I could make a mini- lentil loaf?

As I mixed the lentils with all the stuff I usually put in the meatloaf and added plenty of egg to hold it all together, I was struck with a wonderful vision of myself.  I could get really good at this!  I could be That Amazing Mother who whips up delicious vegetarian meals effortlessly for her mature, sensitive and intelligent vegetarian daughter.  I saw myself floating through organic wholefood markets buying bulk packs of tofu whilst hippies and hipsters alike nodded their approval.  What if I’m actually a creative genius in the kitchen, creating small miracles out of chick peas and eggplant?  I imagined myself on the cover of a glossy recipe-and-anecdote book, wearing a mildly ironic 1950s-style apron and smiling benevolently at the camera.  Of all things, I think putting out a recipe-and-anecdote book is a true sign that you’ve made it as a domestic goddess.

I wish I’d taken a photo of the perfect muffin-shaped little lentil loaf after I took it out of the oven.  It was truly a thing of beauty.  Matilda exclaimed at how pretty it was and ate it wordlessly whilst I radiated smug all over the kitchen.

The next day, Matilda was making herself a ham roll with extra ham.  ”I’ve decided not be be a vegetarian,” she said, “that lentil loaf you made yesterday was pretty yuck”

Incidentally, I’d be happy to publish the recipe if anyone is looking to turn their child off vegetarianism.

Maybe I could make a book…