I feel like I’ve been getting a bit baby-centric on the blog lately, so today I’m going to focus a bit on the big kids. Well, up to six anyway. That’s as far as I’ve got right now. Everything past that is a hazy thought bubble with a big question mark in it. (Quite frankly, everything before that has a big question mark too. I have no idea what I’m doing.)
I feel that as Big Girl has moved on up to the lofty heights of six years old, she has had a marked mental leap. I used to be fairly confident that if I explained something to her well enough, she would see that it made sense and comply. It totally worked at five. But not six. Now, she can run rings around me.
Recently I’ve been working on teaching the kids not to interrupt. I could say that it was so that they would learn to be polite, civilised members of society. I could say that. I would be lying, though.
It’s because it drives me batshit crazy.
It’s hard enough keep track of one conversation in this house. That’s because, if it’s Big Girl at least, that conversation makes no freaking sense. She might start out with a debate about the best texture for chocolate rain (we decided chocolate chips in the end. Sauce would be too gloopy and bars would sting a bit). Soon, though, she’ll have taken a massive tangential leap, and be loudly discussing which colour would be best for the laser that shoots out of her hand. The other day, she interrogated me for 20 minutes about World War II. 20 minutes! Thank God for my Anne Frank-induced obsession as a teen.
And she targets me on the school run, when I am likely to be tired, cold and very grumpy. Once she gets going, you can add confused to that list.
So I’m straining to hear her over the traffic, and desperately trying to get the rusty cogs in my brain a-turning to translate her words into English. Little Girl picks this moment to pipe up with, “I dropped my apple der, in a puddle. I was dithappointed.”
Little Girl is what I like to call ‘a repeater.’ If you don’t answer her as soon as she says something, she will just say it again and again, in exactly the same tone until you respond. I haven’t tested exactly how long she will go on before giving up, but I estimate at least 3 hours and 47 minutes. Ish. For clarity, the apple she is talking about is one that she dropped about 5 weeks ago.
This is the point where the cogs in my head start to fall apart. Or more accurately, explode.
At these times I tend to begin by making a grievous error. I mean, I’ve got two ears right? I’ll just channel one voice into each ear. Fantastic idea! There’s only one problem.
It’s not. fucking. possible.
The only result of this is complete sensory overload. I do not have the cognitive capacity to process two conversations at once. I especially can’t do that when I am so tired that my feet drag on the floor.
I usually decide at this point to throw a quick answer to Little Girl. All she needs is, “Yes, you did drop your apple there,” and she’s all set. Until she remembers that she totally tripped over that paving stone over there last year, anyway. That leaves me clear to give my attention over to Big Girl’s fantasies. Sorted.
Not so sorted for Big Girl. She stops talking and sighs. Then she tosses her head, rolls her eyes and utters these words:
“Are you even listening to me?”
I’m fairly sure that I spoke to Little Girl for a maximum of 3 seconds. But that’s apparently enough to render the last 10 minutes of unwavering attention completely irrelevant.
That is so not fair.
I would be less frustrated by this if she was actually putting any thought into what she was saying. But she is jabbering away with an enthusiasm so intense that she often forgets that words and ideas must be formed inside the brain before they sail through her vocal cords. Thus, her sentences are usually peppered with many “erms” and prolonged pauses. It also means that she repeats about every fifth word over and over as she scrabbles for the next one.
I would also be less frustrated if it wasn’t for the fact that she doesn’t really give a crap what I’m responding with, anyway. What does my opinion matter? She knows the best texture for chocolate rain. And she definitely, definitely knows the best colour for hand lasers.
There is one positive though. Sometimes it’s easy to think that your instructions are going completely unheeded. But now I know that when I say, “Please don’t interrupt,” Big Girl is taking it in.
And as usual, she’s using it against me.
Big Girl also has a tremendous skill for making me feel about 3 inches tall. It amazes me that such a young child has the ability to do this. She doesn’t do it at predictable times, such as during a disagreement, either. No, it usually comes right out of the blue, when as far as I’m concerned, we’re having a nice chat.
She came out of school, bubbling with excitement yesterday. She planted her feet in front of me and said, “Why don’t you ask me what I did today?” with a grin on her face. Of course I complied. “I made a sculpture!” she replied. And you could tell. Her hands were covered in peeling sheets of PVA glue. She also had copious amounts of felt tip pen smeared across her fingers. But more on that later.
We headed off home. On the way she described to me the amazing Crimean War sculpture she had made with one of her friends. She obviously had a great time doing this, and her passion was contagious. She went off, as usual, onto other unrelated topics, and I listened, acknowledged, answered and all that virtuous shit.
Then, she suddenly broke off. She turned to me and asked, “Do you know why I’ve got pen on my hands?”
Sounds like a simple enough question, doesn’t it? There’s no way that it’s a trap.
Yeah, no way.
I innocently answered with, “No, why?” I anticipated a long-drawn out explanation of how she came to be using a pen in the first place, what she did before and after, mixed in with a brief description of the most accurate way to form a mermaid’s tail with your legs.
I was wrong.
Big Girl looked up at me with a mischievous look on her face. And then, in the most sarcastic, belittling voice she could summon up, she yelled, “BECAUSE I WAS USING A PEN!”
Honest to God. If she knew the word “Duh!” I’m pretty sure she would have thrown that in as well. Dude, way to make your mama feel stupid!
I’m almost sure she followed it up with a tut, too.
With Big Girl’s advancing brain development has come a stage of intense curiosity. Kids ask an enormous amount of questions from nearly the moment they learn to speak. It makes sense. They know barely anything about the world that is so familiar to us, and they are hard-wired to find out as much as they can before they reach adulthood. But since turning 6, Big Girl’s questions have turned it up a notch.
No longer am I hearing the easy-to-answer questions that I am used to. “What is a rainbow? What do cows eat? What is dis called?” I like those questions. No Googling required.
Now I am getting stuff like, “How does your body digest food? What kind of butterfly will this caterpillar turn into? What caused World War II?”
Well, actually, part of an idea. But I hate making stuff up to fill in the gaps. And I have a lowly PAYG phone with no internet access, so I can’t even do an emergency, on-the-go websearch.
I am pretty excited when I get a question that I actually know the answer to. I go overboard, giving her a detailed, child-appropriate reply. I even nailed it when I was asked, “How did the baby get into your tummy?” in the middle of the street. The busy street. I’m still proud of that one.
So there I am, explaining away. Giving details and anecdotes, and finding a way to relate it to her own life so it’s easier to understand. And she seems interested. Well, as interested as a person can sound, when they’re mainly forgetting to answer you.
I come to the end, beaming inside. I always feel like a fab parent after one of these conversations. If a child’s brain is like a sponge (and it is), then I just poured a whole load of water on there. Go me.
And then, just as I am about to lapse into my recurring daydream of spending the day in bed, Big Girl raises one eyebrow, looks at me incredulously and says, “How do you even know that?”
How about because I’ve got a brain, kid? Or, perchance, that I existed before your arrival? Or even that I am 21 years older than you, and therefore I know more?
What I actually say is, “Because I read about somewhere.”
I have to say, despite the fact that Big Girl seems to be fulfilling her predestination to trip me up, this stage is cool. Finally I have reached the point where I can share some of my own interests, and she is old enough to understand.
One thing hasn’t changed with age, though.
She’s still too busy thinking about fairies to give a crap.