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I made the mistake last week of telling DS that I’d booked our summer flights to the UK. I forgot that four-year-olds don’t have the best temporal awareness. Despite me explaining that we’re not going till after the end of the summer term, DS thinks we’re going this weekend.
“We’re going to England after tomorrow,” he told an astonished Gerlie.
I explained again that it wasn’t “after tomorrow”.
“Are we going tomorrow, then?” he asked, even more hopeful.
“No, not tomorrow.”
“Then after tomorrow?” His voice rose, a sign that he was getting frustrated with me for being so dense. “I mean, are we going after tomorrow?”
“Well, yes. I suppose so. After tomorrow – but not for a long time after tomorrow. Eight weeks after tomorrow.”
“Oh.” A pause. “One… two… three… four…”
“DS, eight weeks, not eight seconds. After the school term finishes.”
If you wonder what I do all day, I have circular conversations with a four-year-old, that’s what.
So the school says that the end-of-year assessments in Year 3 are just to give the teachers an idea of what’s stuck in the children’s minds, and what gaps they need to plug next year. They’re not major exams. The kids are only eight years old, after all.
And then the school sends home the “revision packs”. 1kg worth of English and 5kg worth of maths. Or something. Homework is suspended for almost a month in order that the children work their way through the revision packs “as you [the parents] see fit”.
Well, what’s that supposed to mean?
I know mums who’ve pinned their children down to a three-hour-a-day revision routine. I know others who have come to blows with their children over it. But we, in our house, haven’t touched it – well, not unless you consider DD writing “too hard” over a few pages of the maths.
Every now and then, I suggest gently to DD that maybe she might like to have a look at some revision with me. And she says, “No thanks!” and I don’t push it.
My rationale is thus: 1) If the school wants to see where the gaps are, what’s the point in me cramming her at home to plug them? and 2) If DD doesn’t do as well as she hopes, she might learn the value of revising for herself – and apply herself willingly to it next year.
It’s a tough line to take, maybe, but I’m sticking with it, flying in the face of Competitive Mum, who talks incessantly about how many hours revision her Darling Bud has done.
Can I just say again: They’re eight.
Meanwhile DD’s decided to revise for her creative writing assessment this week by typing a story on the computer. It’s not the best, but I like her used of pictures. We’ll turn her into a blogger yet.
Don’t you just hate it when your child makes a BFF and then said friend disappears off to Hong Kong / Saudi / Singapore / back home and you end up spending every bedtime for the next year wiping tears from the lashes of a child who can’t understand?
DS made a best friend before he was two. He’s always been the kind of child to single out one BFF rather than play to the crowd, and this other little boy wasn’t only in his class at nursery, he lived just down the road – they played together in the park every day once nursery was done.
But then, when the boys were two and a half, the friend moved to the US.
And I – shoot me now – I lied. “He’s on holiday,” I told DS as he searched the park each day for his friend. I hoped that, after the first three months, he’d forget his friend and move on.
But he didn’t.
So, after three months of sobbing, “I miss X!” I admitted that the friend had actually decided to stay in the States.
“I want to go America,” said DS (fat chance, I thought).
But then amazing news – the friend was coming back to Dubai on holiday, 18 months after leaving. I wondered whether DS – who has truly moved on now – would care.
DS cared. He was beyond excited all week before the scheduled play date. But I couldn’t let go of my scepticism. They won’t remember each other; they’ll be shy; they won’t like each other anymore… I couldn’t have been more wrong. Within seconds of seeing each other they were playing like the past 18 months hadn’t happened; like they’d never been separated at all.
Now I’m working on the mum to move back to Dubai… well, with a friendship that special, wouldn’t you?
It’s lovely, isn’t it, when your children start to make proper friends at school. I love that first sign of independence when they tell you they want to go home from school with a friend for a play date, and they don’t mind that you won’t be there to pick them up or go with them.
We’re sort of getting there with DS now he’s four.
And, while I’m overjoyed at the thought of having a little peace in the afternoon while he has a great play date, I have to say, letting him go home with others does bring its own set of problems.
Our school isn’t a five-minute walk away; neither is it a quick drive through the local community – it’s a 20-minute drive at 140kph on the road formerly known as Emirates Road (now technically known as Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Rd – not to be confused with Sheikh Rashid Rd or even Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard).
To get an idea of what the road formerly known as Emirates Rd is, take the M25 in rush-hour, supersize it to 12 lanes, then plonk the world’s supply of village idiots on it, in badly maintained cars capable of driving at 160kph.
That’s our school run.
Is it any wonder that I’m a bit anal about insisting that DS is always in a proper, age-appropriate car seat? But sometimes I find it difficult to ask other mums outright if they’ll be putting DS in a car seat. Usually I ask nonchalantly if they have enough car seats or should I drop one off for DS to use? But other times I barely know the mum so I resort to sneakier tactics.
This involves lurking in the car park until I’ve watched her put her own kids in her car. If they’re strapped into car seats, we’re cool. But if her own children are flying loose in the car, their heads bobbing about between the front seats as her driver accelerates the Range Rover out of the car park in a cloud of dust, poor DS finds his play dates stone-walled – unless the other child comes home with us. If that happens, we’re usually subjected to a barrage of four-year-old outrage: “What? I have to sit in a baby seat?”
Um, yes dear: You’re not going through my windscreen.
I thought I’d write a post about this given the number of mums who texted me before DD’s birthday to ask what she might like. Obviously, all girls are different but here are the gifts that went down well with DD:
- Perfumes and body sprays.
- “Real” makeup (blusher, pale eye shadow).
- Anything to do with Trashpacks (don’t ask if you don’t know – you’ll wish you didn’t know).
- Costume jewellery of the adult variety (not kiddie jewellery).
- Grown-up gifts like photo frames (thank you A) and CDs and – from me as her main gift – a radio/CD player for her room.
- Cash and/or cash cards to spend in the malls.
And, if you’re interested in hearing what an eight-year-old girl says she wants, it would be: Her own laptop, her own iPad, an iPhone 5, loadsamoney and a car with her own driver so she can go wherever she wants. Oh, and Justin Bieber to perform a private concert. On time.
Dream on, babe – especially on the last one!
I was telling DD last night that she must wash carefully under her arms because, after a day in her poly-crap school shirt (why can’t they make them in 100% cotton?) with a polyester blazer over the top, she can get a little pongy.
But then I don’t want to give her a complex about it, so I started explaining that she only smells, a bit, because the school shirt’s not a natural fibre.
“It’s made from a manmade fabric,” I told her. “Not a natural one. It’ll make anyone’s armpits smell – even the tooth fairy’s. If it were down to me, I’d make your school uniform in cotton because it doesn’t make you smell.”
“It’s the fabric,” I added, “not you.”
I was desperate not to give her a complex. But it’s a fine balance between not saying anything and teaching her why she needs to wash properly.
“Is it still called manmade fabric if it’s made by women?” she asked. “Or is that called lady-made?”
Good point, I thought. And what about those school uniforms made by children in child-labour sweatshops? I didn’t say that, though. She’s only eight and it was bedtime.
“Maybe it should be called human-made fabric,” she suggested. “Then everyone’s covered.”
DH writes from a conference he’s at in the south of France (I know, seriously, the south of bloody France): “Hi darling, how are you?”
Me, from home: “Glad the week’s over. How about you?”
DH sends me a couple of photos of the view from his room: “I’ve just checked in. That’s my view.”
I’m looking at the photos – they’re all palm trees, Art Deco architecture and bright blue Mediterranean Sea. I can even see a cruise ship anchored offshore in one of them.
Me: “Looks gorgeous. It’s been a tough week; I’ve been working till 11 every night. Obviously up at 5.50am to do the school run. Can’t wait for you to get back.”
DH writes: “Oh, hold on. Got to go, they’ve just told me I’m moving to a suite…”
Messaging resumes the next day – Saturday.
DH: “Hello, conference is finished. Suite’s gorgeous! I’m sitting in Cannes old town, having a beer. So what are you up to?”
Me: “Oh you know. Usual Saturday. Screaming loud kids’ birthday party. Now I’ve just dragged two bickering children round the supermarket, fighting with them all the way. When are you back?”
DH: “After the weekend.”
“Mummy, is the tooth fairy really real? Like, a real fairy comes? Or is it just you putting money under my pillow and taking my tooth?”
I know she’s suspected this for the last two teeth and she’s probably old enough now for me just to come clean – but I have DS to think about. She’s had eight magical visits from La Fairie Des Teeth - I don’t want it to be ruined for him before he’s even had one.
“Why do you ask?” I said. “Don’t you believe in her?”
“Yes…… I… do,” she said. “But some people don’t?”
“Well, all that matters is that you do. She exists.” (In your imagination, I added, crossing my fingers.)
But then came the moment of the dreaded tooth/cash exchange. I’d asked DD to put the tooth close to the edge of the pillow to “make it easier for the tooth fairy”.
“But she’s a fairy?” DD had retorted in a “der” voice. “She flies! She can do anything.”
DD placed the tooth under the centre of her pillow and plonked her head right on top – a position she was still in when I crept into her room at 10pm to do the deed. I did it as stealthily as I could, balancing on three toes and sliding my hand like a snake under the pillow, but there was a crackle or two of the letter she’d left for TF and then, when I got back to my room, I wondered if she’d actually been faking sleep.
I crept back in and looked at her. She’d changed position, her knees were drawn up. Was she smiling? I went back to my room.
But I couldn’t settle. I had that sinking, quicksand feeling that I’d been caught out; that she’d seen the whole exchange. I went back to her room. “DD,” I whispered, watching her carefully for a tell-tale flicker of the eyelids in the light from the hall. “DD?”
No response. Did I get away with it? I had to wait till morning.
“Did the tooth fairy come last night?” I asked, casually, when she came in to say good morning.
“Yeah,” she said, with equal nonchalance. “15. Can I have toast for breakfast?”
She wasn’t telling – and I wasn’t asking. I wonder how tooth nine will go.