I overheard the Princess saying to her brother – “Daniel, if you find the cat, I will give you a shilling.”
Archives for May 2010
Daniel: Look Mummy, a Jew, a Jew!
Daniel: A JEW, Mummy.
Daniel: Over there, behind that girl, it’s a Jew.
Me: I beg your pardon?
Daniel (pointing): Look, you can see it now! On that man’s arm.
Me: Oh, do you mean a tattoo?
Recounting this incident to my husband over lunch, herself asked why it would be wrong to say “a Jew”.
Me: Well, sweetheart, there was a time when people were really mean to Jews and so it’s important to be sensitive to people’s feelings..(feeling a bit overpowered by the prospect of having to explain anti-semitism, I turn to Mr. Waffle) Help me out here.
Mr. Waffle: You see a person is more than just one characteristic, you can’t just identify someone as one thing – how would it be, if you were only described as blue eyes.
Princess (confused): People would be mean to me because I had blue eyes?
Me: Well, I suppose, they could be. They could decide that blue eyes are bad. Maybe, if blue eyes were very unusual. Sometimes people are scared of people who are different or do things differently. For example, a long time ago, English people were mean to Irish people and they put up signs saying Irish people couldn’t stay in their houses.
Princess: English people don’t like me because of my blue eyes?
Me: No, no, that’s not true any more – remember we had lots of English friends when we lived in Brussels.
Her: English people like blue eyes now?
Me: No, no, forget the blue eyes.
Her: But Daddy said…
Me: Never mind what Daddy said. Look, it’s rude to comment on people’s appearance.
Her: Do Jews look different?
Me: No, of course not.
Her: Well, then why…
Me: Look, just don’t categorise people by their appearance or their beliefs – everyone is different and should be judged on his or her own merits, now would you like more soup?
Mr. Waffle: That went well, didn’t it?
Only the other night, Mr. Waffle was expressing the mildest affection for the cat. Of course, that just invited what follows.
Shortly thereafter I was dropping the babysitter, M, home. “How was it?” I asked. “Fine,” she replied, “there was just one thing.” Apparently, as the Princess was playing Club Penguin, the cat came into the room with a pigeon clutched between her jaws. M saw the cat playing with something but didn’t notice what until feathers began to float around the room. With great self-possession, M did not squeal, as I would certainly have done. She left the Princess playing Club Penguin and unaware of the drama and, to the cat’s consternation, picked up the bird with a cloth (note to self – where is that cloth?) and chucked it out the back door. The cat followed and continued to play with the corpse outside. M was force to put the dead pigeon in the bin in a plastic bag. Apparently, it was a fully grown pigeon. Since Hodge is not a fully grown cat, I do wonder whether she would be able to bring down a big pigeon. I can’t help fearing that she found a dead pigeon somewhere and this is not going to be good for her health or ours.
The following morning when I came downstairs, Mr. Waffle had thrown the sofa cover in the wash. Apparently the cat had coughed up a hair/feather ball on it. Lovely. When I left for work the cat was lying on the Princess’s bed enjoying the morning sunshine looking like pigeon wouldn’t melt in her mouth.
I took the boys to Cork for the weekend. The train journey was horrific due to overcrowding but fellow passengers were kind and the boys reasonably good so it passed off peacefully enough. The weekend was largely uneventful which in itself is remarkable. The boys were saintly at mass with my parents (front pew – the anguish) and my father gave them a fiver afterwards for good behaviour. Enormous largesse which they promptly disposed of in the scout hall jumble sale across the car park.
In fact the only eventful thing that happened was in the park on Sunday afternoon when a small child (maybe aged 6/7) armed with a water pistol (machine gun sized, pump action – I have to say, letting your child bring such an object to the playground, is a poor decision) started spraying my children from the top of the slide. Reluctantly, I heaved myself up from the seat where I had been happily chatting to my mother and went to intervene. Although the boys were clearly enjoying themselves, I didn’t feel that water down the backs of their coats was going to make them or me happy in the longer term as the weather continues cool (alas). I went to the bottom of the slide and wagged my finger at the young man at the top and said “No matter how much they ask you to spray them with water, don’t do so because I will be displeased.” Suddenly, this woman approached me like a fury from where she had been sitting on the sidelines.
Her (livid): Did you hold your finger up to my son?
Me (surprised): Yes, I did, you see he is spraying my sons with his water cannon…
Her: (still livid) I’ve been watching those boys, they were running around underneath encouraging him to spray them.
Me: (placatingly) I’m sure they were and I’m sorry about that..but I don’t want him to spray them and…
Her: (still absolutely livid): Then keep them away from him and don’t you ever raise your finger at another woman’s child again. And you should chill, it’s only water.
I kept them away and shortly after departed as her son was very keen to play with my boys and his form of playing involved spitting mouthfuls of water all over them (which I admit, they enjoyed) and I was too scared to reprove him or approach his mother.
I was really upset. She was so unpleasant. I didn’t want to go to war over the water pistol and did everything I could to diffuse the situation but to absolutely no avail. On subsequently recounting this to a number of people, they said I was wrong not to approach the mother in the first instance. I didn’t see her but I suppose I didn’t particularly look for her. It didn’t occur to me for a moment that I couldn’t say to this child, stop soaking mine with your water pistol. My tone was jocular (though firm, like supernanny) and the child smiled mischievously at me – he didn’t look at all upset and I didn’t mean him to be upset, just to make less free with the water pistol.
If the boot had been on the other foot, I honestly think I would have rushed to apologise. My sister says that this is because of my constant desire to please. I really don’t think so or, at least, not entirely. My experience is that when there are grown-ups and small children around, the grown-ups are the ones who are rational and reasonable and, if they are reproving my children, then they are most likely to be right. I have never in seven years of intensive playground frequenting in various jurisdictions encountered anything like this woman. She scared the bejaysus out of me. I hate to come over all Daily Mail here but what is the world coming to when, in a playground, with your children, you cannot say to another child “stop that”? Actually, to be honest, I think you probably can. But I won’t be doing that again, I will be frantically looking around for parents and saying really apologetically, “Look, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but your child appears to be [soaking mine/strangling mine/thumping mine] and while I know it’s my child’s fault, I wonder whether you’d mind asking yours to stop before he exhausts his [trigger finger/delicate hands/little fist]?” And they will be apologetic and think I am insane, but at least I won’t be scared rigid.
In other news, the children are off school for the week and today I took them to Glendalough for the day. It was chilly and despite having seen the Secret of Kells as a prelude to exploring one of Ireland’s most famous monastic settlements they remained unmoved. The Princess was, however, in a position to toss words like scriptorium about with authority, if not with accuracy: “It’s the scriptorium.” “You know, I really think it’s a church.” “It’s not.” At the end of the day, both boys when questioned separately identified getting an ice cream cone as the highlight of the trip. In response to the same question, the Princess said that the picnic would have been had it not been so cold and had I remembered to bring the buns. Not a disaster then, but not exactly a success either. Tomorrow we’re staying at home.
Mr. Waffle is supposed to be back from his glamourous foreign location tomorrow night and M, the babysitter, is supposed to come back from France. They may both be foiled by the cloud of volcanic ash which is currently scheduled to sit on Ireland. In which case, the children and I will be spending more time together than we had planned. What do you reckon, Newgrange?
My loving husband was in Luxembourg (glamourous foreign destination revealed) for work. Ireland continues to be cut off from the rest of the world by the machinations of the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano. So, my loving husband flew to London from Luxembourg this afternoon, is currently standing on a train from London to Wales and later tonight will be getting the night boat which will bring him into Dublin at 6.55 fresh as a daisy. Irish airspace will reopen at 4.00 am.
The reason for the planes, boats and automobiles extravaganza is that the children are off school this week and I minded them today and yesterday and it is Mr. Waffle’s job to mind them on Thursday and Friday while I return to work. I pointed out that he would be in no condition to mind them tomorrow morning and I am putting off my return to the afternoon. I asked him with some asperity whether it would not have been better to stay in Luxembourg rather than martyr himself in this way. He pointed out straight back that he rang me this morning when the decision had to be made and I didn’t answer my phone. This is, alas, my “especial foible” so I retired in disorder.
There is a point to this narrative so bear with me. It illustrates my husband’s highly developed sense of duty. This sense of duty combined with an excellent upbringing and, I am sure, his own innate virtue, means that my husband and I share all domestic tasks: child minding, cooking, cleaning, laundry, bill paying, you name it, we share it. I have absolutely no complaints. But here’s the thing. We’re both stretched and exhausted. Yes, I am sure that it would be worse for me, if my husband were useless, but it’s no bed of roses either. I say this in some distress for I often see things to the effect that when men do their share, it will be all better. Well, based on my experience, it won’t be as much better as people seem to think. I suppose you can dispose of those tedious arguments people seem to have about laundry and hoovering and use the extra time to watch BBC 4. The traditional model works well for the working spouse (almost always the husband). The two parents working model where all the work is shared is exhausting for both parents. I can’t tell you how much it annoys me to have to concede this but there it is.
And today, the children and I went to the newly re-opened Natural History Museum which we all enjoyed very much. I thought you would like to know. If you ever find yourself at a loose end in Dublin with small children, I recommend it.
Sometimes at lunch time I go to the National Gallery. It’s peaceful there. Following my trip to Paris and my new found love for LargilliÃ¨re, I have been working my way around the two (very small) French rooms. I looked at the picture of Richard Wall by Van Loo. It’s a good picture and I spent a while imaging Mr. Wall, who has a face made for meetings, chairing a very dull modern committee without a wig or a skirted coat. He was described as Spanish Ambassador to England and I thought that was a little odd and perhaps it should be the other way around. Wikipedia, as ever, was my friend. Richard Wall was indeed Spanish Ambassador to England although he was more commonly known as Ricardo Wall. But he was of Irish origin, in fact his people came from Kilmallock in Co. Limerick (where, as it happens, my mother grew up and my cousins still live). Wouldn’t it be worth mentioning this in the description and perhaps even moving Ambassador Wall to the fledgling Irish portrait gallery on the ground floor?