Monday, 19 July 2010

From the potty mouths of babes

'MORONS! There are some MORONS!'

This courtesy of Ana, high decibel, on our walk to the park this morning. The MORONS, or motorists, didn't appear to be doing anything particularly stupid. Next passing car, also MORONS.

MORONS, MORONS, MORONS. By the time we reached the park, an entire village of MORONS had been identified and shamed.

Ana has chronic pediatric outburst syndrome, a relatively common childhood condition. I first noticed it when she was about 18 months and could not yet pronounce the letter L. This didn't stop her from loudly identifying every clock she spotted. Fortunately we live in England, this just came accross as an interest in chickens.

Around the same time she had difficulty with the letter R, but nevertheless became fascinated with shirts. She developed a compulsion to point at every one she saw, in a manner reminiscent of Dr Strangelove. This became a bit of a problem because we live in a village where about half the residents are sweet grannies, perpetually down the shop. Here's a typical sampling of dialogue from that time:

Bog Standard Gran: 'Hello poppet, how old?
Mama: 'Thank you Bog Standard Gran, 18 months.
Ana activates Strangelovian pointer finger salute.
BS Gran: 'Coocheecoo--"
Ana commences shirt recognition sequence...
BS Gran: '--cheecoochee--'
Ana launches: 'Sh*t! Sh*t! Sh*t!
Gran runs for cover, digestive biscuits go flying.
Ana: 'Sh*t! Sh*t! Sh*t!'
Pronunciation misunderstandings form the backbone of Ana's POS, but poor-taste word fixation brings up the rear. My neighbor's cat, Nemesis (I have no idea what his real name is), is essentially a poo-hose on legs. One afternoon I caught Nemesis red-bottomed in the middle of my front yard, where my kids play. I yelled at him to take his huge poo elsewhere. From behind me came: 'HUGE POO! 'HUUUUUUUUUGE POOOOOOO!' I should have seen it coming really.

HUGE POO was everywhere for weeks. The animals at the zoo were all taking huge poos (they weren't). Other kids were huge pooers. Trees pooed, cars pooed. Even BS Gran was implicated.

Ana's POS had been in remission for some time before rearing it's ugly mouth again today. It took me half the morning to figure out that it was my inane chatter about cars that had kicked it off: 'There's one car...there's another one...there are some more'. Ana fused these together into kid-speak: 'There are some more ones', or to my ears: 'MORONS!!!'.

I pity BS Gran. She won't deserve this. But the next time we see Nemesis, Ana will be ready.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

The barometric caterpillar

Greater London was silly with sunshine for weeks. Grass withered. Pimms flowed. Weathermen giggled. The natives--shirtless, red, squinting furiously--stumbled dazedly from pub to park to pub again. Houses thrust wide their double-glazed windows, like butterflies spreading wings. Neighbors glared at neighbors brash enough to laugh in their gardens after 9pm, making light of such unrelenting light.

This morning I awoke, or rather Chaos woke me, to a weather change; cool air and grey light through my white curtains. I thought of a day in the deepest doldrums of winter that found me snowed under with two babies and snowbound in the house. Ever in character, the local council couldn't locate it's grit, and the white Christmas that began a week before the actual holiday, lingered on in icy road conditions for weeks after it. My rear-wheel drive car sat quietly collecting snow.

Futile as it was to try and go anywhere, I went to the garage to search for a snow shovel, or rather a gardening shovel to misuse. I tipped over one box in a mountain of cardboard boxes, and suddenly--whoosh!--I had an Eric Carl moment: out flew a beautiful butterfly.

She was firelight orange with purple sequens on her wings. Though the box must have kept her warm enough, she could hardly move once she hit the cold ground. I took her inside and put her under a bright light in the kitchen. Ana watched in joyful awe. Butterfly! she whispered incredulously, again and again. Butterfly! I whispered it too. What was such a beautiful summertime creature doing in my garage in January?

Cold victory.
Wings flexed as if through molasses. Then quicker. Off she flew.

My sleep-deprived brain told me to leave plates of fruit around the house. She disappeared for days at a time. I thought she had passed on to greener flower gardens in the sky. But out she would flit again from a drawn curtain or a corner. Our snow butterfly lived for a month.

A butterfly is such a cliched vehicle for hope. Maybe I thought of her this morning because my obsessive-random-nostolgia-generator functions best when I first open my eyes and commence the need-coffee-now sequence. Or maybe I'll always think of her when the weather, inevitably, reverts to blah.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Through a shape sorter darkly

A question recurs when I am in the presence of another mum of two and we experience a miracle: our babies drift off and our toddlers drop protocol and commence peaceful, bite-free playing for a vast stretch of several minutes (eternity, in two-year-old terms).

There is a pause. Then the question."Why didn't anybody warn me about two?"

Subsequent kids grow families in an exponential, not linear fashion. One is just one. But two is an army (and under-fives don't adhere to the Geneva Conventions). No one gets a break. There aren't enough hands, nor enough hours in the day. There aren't complete conversations, or even complete thought--

Which is why the question remains unanswered. Toddlers notice their respective social secretaries relaxing and  resume protocol. Kid A bites Kid B. Kid B smacks Kid A over the head with the COVETED TOY OF THE MOMENT (think the conch shell from 'Lord of the Flies'). Both babies go off like car alarms. Parenting resumes and the question is forgotten.

Shapeshifter fingerprints.
Perhaps no one warned me for the same reason that veteran mums to never tell expectant mums about the horrors of labour. Or maybe no one remembered to warn me due to a sort of Mama Stockholm Syndrome--eventually we learn to identify with our captors to survive. I suspect this because I feel myself slowly becoming one with the two-kid army. I am forgetting the horrors of the early months with two under-threes, just as a promised I wouldn't.

Recently I watched Ana repeatedly bash the round peg into the square hole of her shape sorter. In that moment I really identified with her. Most of my days feel like that. But there must be light at the end of this shape sorter tunnel, albeit faint, because I have time to sit here and write this.