I never had books by Julia Donaldson in my house before Bear. It wasn’t personal. I’d just never heard of her. Within a very short time, I knew a number of them by heart and now I can’t imagine life without them. Similarly googly eyes. What would I have done with them before Bear? Maybe put them in pairs on the walls to make Mr. Invisible and I look popular? Like pancake ingredients, they are now firmly established as something I can’t run out of unless I want to be classed as a ‘bad mummy.’
For the past few days, Bear has been rescuing empty bottles to upcycle into weird creatures. He has found tissue paper, bits of card, feathers, paint and glue from our craft supplies and got on with it by himself. Halfway through the second bottle creature, disaster struck. No googly eyes!
After a good rummage in (yet another) box of collage and craft stuff I found a few and saved the day. Phew! Bear celebrated by making a couple of red tissue paper creatures. In the meantime I added googly eyes to my shopping list. You can’t have too many!
I love the way Bear uses language. Children seem to have an innate aptitude for grammar. They need to learn vocabulary and the irregularities. The rest takes care of itself. When Bear was a baby someone advised Mr. Invisible and I that children are as intelligent as we are, just smaller. Bear interchanges expressions into different contexts, sometimes with hilarious results.
We were walking home from school today, hand in hand when I pointed out that he is a bit croaky today. ‘Yes mummy,’ he said. ‘My real voice has gone away. This is my supply voice.’
Now I’m starting to wonder how often his teacher is away!
Bear had his first ever spelling test at school last week. There were four sets of words increasing in difficulty from set 1 to 4. Bear’s teacher said the children could choose which set to learn. Much to my relief he decided not to go for set 4. I thought ‘counterintelligence’ was a bit optimistic for a six year-old too! When he chose to learn set 3, my first reaction was to gulp and ask myself if these weren’t too difficult. I’ve known adults who struggle with ‘surprise’ and even some who’ve been on a snowboard before they could actually spell it. But I resolved to apply my usual parenting mantra – provide support and do a bit of clearing up if necessary.
I needn’t have worried. He thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing and spelled all of the words correctly in the test. Apart from another boy in his class who chose set 4, everyone chose one of the easier two sets. I was impressed by the confidence of the two and I admit to feeling slightly humbled. In their shoes I would have balked at the task unless explicitly encouraged by an adult. At first I assumed that Bear is simply more confident than my younger-self. But what if there’s more to it than that? Are we to believe the stuff about school being geared to the way girls learn? Surely if two of the boys could do it, at least four of the girls must have been able to do it too. Maybe the difference between Bear and me has more to do with gender than personality. Apparently testosterone levels double in boys at around the age of four, so hormone differences must come into play even at their tender age.
I could go on all night about measures of success in society being set by men, so of course they’re more successful at the stuff they find important. I’m not going off on that one now, I just know the girls can do it too! We might need confidence and encouragement, but my hope for the girls in his class is that they will find it – from parents, teachers, friends and ultimately from themselves. Come on girls! I know you’ve got it. It’s time for you to know it too!
Snow. What does it mean? Transport chaos. The wrong kind of snow. The right kind of snow at the wrong time. Trying to keep warm. Treacherous pavements. Problems with deliveries to shops. Unable to get to shops. Nightmare journey to work. Even worse coming home.
I guess it depends whether you’re 6 or 86. Grandad used to dread it, the cold, that icy layer when the top bit has melted and then re-frozen, the grey stuff by the side of the road, the slowdown in the economy…
To Bear, it’s the pinnacle of winter. The stuff that he’s been waiting for since the sun first dipped in the autumn sky and we started needing coats and proper shoes. The anticipation is almost as good as the event itself. He was sorely disappointed when Monday’s offering didn’t settle. He’s been listening to weather forecasts and checking for updates on my phone as if life itself depended on it.
It’s almost time. For the past couple of days the frost has still been on the grass mid-afternoon. The early-morning icy layer on the puddles is now an all day event. One more sleep and if the forecast is to believed, we will be living in a Christmas card by mid-morning.
So if you’ve no place to go (and have sufficient food and heating!) let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
Bear often comes up with something profound seemingly out of the blue. Of course it’s not out of the blue to him. His cogs are constantly whirring and trying to make sense of this world, of which he finds himself at the centre.
We were eating turkey and stilton tart (frozen Christmas offering – yum!) when he started off with, ‘Will Frankie Bear come to heaven with us?’
I am never prepared for these questions. My answer to ‘how do you know there’s a baby in your tummy?’ still haunts me and that was about three years ago. If I’d known it was going to be so important, I might have considered my response, rather than spend the next however many years having to answer further questions and speculation regarding the act of ‘weeing on a stick.’
So what to say? I can hardly tell my six year-old that he probably won’t care by then. Frankie will very likely be in a box in the attic or at the back of a cupboard if he’s a lucky bear. He might even come out occasionally, but he probably won’t be the constant companion he is now. Bear is six. He doesn’t need to know all of this. I opted for, ‘Would it be heaven without Frankie?’
Bear solemnly shook his head. ‘He’s part of love and love lasts forever, so he’ll come.’
Hopefully that set his mind at rest. Call me a bad mum if you like, but the ever after is something he’s going to have to work out for himself. I don’t have all the answers. And even if I do, they’re my answers. He needs to have his own. Even if it takes him a lifetime to work them out. Even if it means that Frankie Bear is going to heaven after all.
Bear lost his first tooth today. He hits all of his milestones before I’m ready. Whether it’s toilet training, leaving him to play at a friend’s house or starting school, he’s always up for whatever it is long before I’m ready to let go. Not that he knows that of course. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling his fun, or getting in the way. Whatever it is, my approach is the same: provide moral support and do a bit of clearing up.
This tooth business is something special. At the school gates this afternoon, I was trying to establish the going rates for the tooth fairy. It seems to be a pound, or even two per tooth. How does she carry those heavy coins! Times have certainly changed. It was a sixpence when I started losing teeth. He’s written a note for her and put it under his pillow. ‘I have lost a tooth. I don’t have it.’
Bear said he wants to save all the money he gets from the tooth fairy to buy a present for me, which Mr. Invisible can help him choose. Lessons in humility from a five year old. I’m humbled. I feel ready for this one, just unprepared. There’s a difference.
Grandad decided to give Bear some money to spend. Given a free rein, Bear would probably take it to the Lego shop. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that something a bit more special was in order. I’m not sure Bear can remember Dad at his best, even though it was under a year ago! Children live in the present. Sometimes it’s a good thing, but I want to protect his memories of Grandad. He enjoys Lego, but I needed to think of something that he could treasure.
About a year ago, a Build-a-Bear shop opened in a nearby shopping centre. Bear has been very interested ever since. He loves looking at the little outfits and shoes and hats, but most of all he dreams of having his very own bear to bring home and love.
Build-a-Bear. That’s the thing to do. He chose him! He stuffed him! He dressed him! And right now he’s snuggled up with him. I’ve never seen such a happy pair of bears!
Bear got his homework book from school this week. He felt very grown-up about it. I can’t believe my baby is old enough to get homework. Actually I’d rather he didn’t. I don’t believe homework in primary school helps final learning outcomes. I think it has the potential to put children off forever, as well as destroy their relationship with parents and carers. (Watch this space!) I’d really like him to be a child for longer than this. But hey, what do I know! I’m not a teacher or a child psychologist. I could be described as an anthropologist, as I do observe one from close quarters. But I’m not exactly impartial and one child doesn’t make a scientific sample. Anyway, whatever my uneducated opinion (but not humble – I make no apology, I just don’t do humble opinions), he gets homework now.
I always think September is a better time for resolutions than New Year and a better time for new beginnings than Spring. Maybe it’s because September is inextricably linked with the beginning of the school year and empty notebooks with no mistakes in them yet.
Anyway, my resolution is to encourage Bear to finish his homework each Friday evening so we don’t have to think about it at the weekend. It worked this week. But I’m not holding my breath! And I’m not going to let it rule or ruin us. So there!
Hurrah for September! May, June and July, you let us down miserably. August held out for the Games, but September is where it’s happening.
We didn’t manage a camping holiday this year. Not even a weekend. Bear was sorely disappointed and if Dogford could talk, he would be giving us a hard time too. So how about setting up a campsite in the back garden? Of course they’re not allowed actually to sleep out there (too dangerous!) and they’re not allowed to set fire to the campfire (although it wouldn’t be a proper campsite without one), but for one day only Bear and his toys and Dogford have camped. Thank you September. We couldn’t have done it without you!
It’s almost a week since my last post. And what a week! We had a holiday club for children (I was a volunteer), the Olympic Opening Ceremony (I was transfixed) and a Family Fun Day today (I was doing too many things!) It’s a struggle to do all this stuff with Dad. He was at Auntie’s until Thursday evening, and I was already done in! I should be getting up-to-date on my own jobs and re-charging my batteries a bit when he’s at Auntie’s. But this time last year he was walking to places and playing cricket with the kids, so I can hardly blame myself for having said yes to stuff. Without Mr. Invisible I couldn’t have done it. He helped Dad with the morning routine yesterday while I was at holiday club and again this morning when I was setting up the Fun Day. I think my world needs to shrink a bit.
Dad and Bear and I watched the opening ceremony of the Olympics last night. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we have been waiting years for it. Just as the seven young athletes were in position to light the copper petals, which would combine to form the Olympic cauldron, Dad decided he needed the loo. Between the walking frame and the stairlift, I managed to get the gist of what was happening. And in the modern age, there are plenty of opportunities to see it again. So remind me, why did I stay up for it? That it’s all happening just along the road might have something to do with it. I’ve never taken any notice of the Olympics before, but now I’ve got Olympic-coloured nails and am well on the way to getting the total fever! Actually I love it. I love the hype, the atmosphere, I love that Bear is so engaged with it. I love that I can’t go anywhere without seeing an Olympic cycling team in training or an Olympic volunteer on the way home from a shift.
Anyway, Bear is in my bed now. He woke up an hour ago wet with perspiration, hiding under the covers from the monsters. Where these monsters have come from I don’t know, but they are real to him. Mummy’s bed with the lamp on is the best place. Monsters wouldn’t dare go into Mummy’s room and they are definitely scared of the light. I hope he’s still there when I go to bed. I’m happy for my world to get smaller if I get to look after Dad, give Mr. Invisible a break and enjoy Bear.