Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Dressing appropriately

Luckily, my children don’t mind looking ridiculous. It’s kind of a family tradition. I was brought up regularly modelling for my Auntie’s fancy dress shop so perhaps that’s why I have never batted an eyelid when Ezra wears his pirate shorts to tennis, or Niamh decides to go to church dressed as a phoenix.

Their delight at looking ridiculous has got me off the hook many times. Like when Niamh gently woke me up at 6.30am cooing the words: “Mummy, have you made my kookaburra outfit yet…..the assembly is this morning…..” My eyes flicked open. “You get the cardboard, I’ll get the sewing machine!”

By 7.30am, she had a giant cardboard beak attached to a yellow cap, with a pair of “wings” (a large semi-circle of fabric) pinned to her t-shirt and attached to her wrists with hair elastics (Why did it take you 1 hour to do that, I hear you murmuring….I don’t know….but it was before coffee.)

I was hoping that when I had a girl, I may get some fashion advice to help me through life, but no. Well, I do get fashion advice, but I am not sure I can really follow it. “Do you think red and green together looks a bit Christmassy? I say, wearing my bright red skinny jeans and emerald green jumper. “Nooooo!” says Niamh, in a whimsical tone, “It’s always good to look Christmassy when it’s so close to Christmas.” It’s June.

It’s non-uniform days at school when they suddenly get concerned about what they wear…..but they decide at 8am, when we need to leave at 8.10am that their outfit is “just, arghh!” Perhaps they have been influenced by the fashion industry myth that “You are what you wear”; that clothes somehow express their identity…ok, so I’m not completely opposed to this, but when they are trying to express someone else’s identity (ie, their mother who has bought their clothes for them, or the “cool kids” at school who have been taught how to dress in a cool way) I get a little dis-heartened that the world of joy I’d like my kids to live in is being muted.  
Apparently, when you have a boy, they don’t worry about what they wear. At the time I was reading the article, that said as much, Ezra was squeezing on his 7th T-shirt, one on top of the other, because he couldn’t decide which one to wear. 
Of course there is such a thing as appropriateness. Ezra wearing 7 t-shirts on a 30 degree day would not be appropriate….and trying to defend myself in hospital as he’s being given IV fluids with “he was just trying to express himself!” would not be appropriate.  
Sometimes however, appropriateness is not always clear. 

Do I let Niamh go to church dressed as a phoenix

Harry Potter is a controversial series afterall, especially in some churches. Well, the costume was made by me, so it barely gets recognised as its inspiration (one mother tentatively asked “is she some sort of chick?” when Niamh wore it to school for world book day) so the occult connection isn’t an issue.  As an item of clothing, it functions well; it’s warm on a cool day, slightly waterproof, it’s neat and won’t hurt anyone. She’s happy in it. All is well. 

So when we’re in the car on the way home, I was surprised when Niamh exclaimed “I am not wearing this to church ever again!” I could feel my brow furrow, which mean-spirited old lady commented to make Niamh feel this way? Then she continued “…the beak got in the way when I was trying to drink the communion wine!”

So appropriateness wins in the end…without any fuss or tantrums….they work it out eventually, even if they look a little ridiculous on the way.


Monday, 10 June 2013

Bad-guy and chips?

I think it’s the neat shape of lamb chops that I like best. They’re also quick to cook and tasty, so I’m always keen for a treat at least once a month. I normally associate lamb chops with a heartening dinner, but today, Ezra’s comments made me think twice, and not in a way you’d expect.

So kids go through a phase of realising that the “meat” they eat, comes from a cow, a pig, a chicken, a lamb etc….the cute animals they have been reading about in children’s books and decide that it is so awful to eat them, that they won’t touch meat again. (Until they can be persuaded that the cow had died anyway, or they smell cooking bacon…)

We thought we’d got away with this one. Ezra has always been a keen carnivore, often eating nothing but the meat on his plate. Today, however, he revealed a miscommunication that may have happened a long time ago, making it seem to him that cannibalism is entirely acceptable, and mummy serves it up regularly at home “as a special treat”. Because today for lunch we are eating “Bad Guys”. 

“What?!” I asked him again.
“….those things you have just put on the plate in the oven, they’re from bad-guys.” 
“Well, no Ezra, they’re from lambs.”
“Oh,” he said, thoughtfully wandering off to ponder this latest revelation. He sat quietly at dinner, in front of the meat he’d eaten many times before, and would you believe it, didn’t touch it. He didn’t like it.

It seems, that ridding the world of “bad-guys” one chop at a time was all the motivation this 5 year old needed to finish his dinner…..and to be honest (despite the fact that cannibalism is ethically, morally and dangerously wrong) it does seem rather cruel to be eating something so beautiful as a lamb, when there are all those bad guys running about messing up the place……!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Niamh 5000

“If you get me all the equipment….I’ll do it everyday!” She’s not talking about the latest craze for 9 year olds, or hobby (possibly involving an upgrade to our medical insurance)…she’s talking about hand-washing clothes! Niamh had just come back from a thoroughly enjoyable trip to Tocal Farm Homestead, the highlight of which was washing sheets, table cloths and jeans – entirely by hand. They soaked and scrubbed them on washboards, before wringing them out with much hilarity in pairs. The final stage was hanging them on a huge washing line “which was too high to reach!” she says pointing at the diagram she’d just drawn (yes, the enthusiasm had extended to drawings of the events, possibly due to our confused expressions, we’d never seen her with so much energy describing the days’ activities.) She explained how the washing line had a special mechanism to enable the lines to be pulled down, within arms reach.

Jumping on board now, my husband and I could see the delight in her face “I think I would do all our washing if I just had one of those washboard thingys!...and then I’d wash all the neighbours clothes. Perhaps I would charge $5 for a load of washing…..” She gazed into the distance at the potential profits to be made from having such fun. So we turned the conversation to what she, as the amazing hand-washer, might call herself…."The Niamh5000”. So it will forever go down in family lore that Niamh would more than happily take on household tasks (don’t worry, we won’t exploit it!)

I thought of our influence as parents…that we need to allow our children to have fun in places we don’t expect. We need to provide them with as many experiences in life as possible, without shadowing them with our own. To remove our expectations, remove our been-there-done-that attitude or giving an air of “I know best” . Let them find out for themselves that simple everyday activities, with the right frame of mind, are much more fun than that iPod they keep asking for……

More creative fun