Friday, 13 April 2012

Wet feet and map making

So.  The parenting star chart.  Where are we?

Well yesterday was mixed.  Thomas got up early and painted his feet with toothpaste.  Again.  But on the plus side, he did a wee in the potty.  Those probably cancel each other out so nil points for the getting up process.

I then decided I needed to go to a garden centre.  Instead of going to the local one and shouting at Thomas the whole way round, I very sensibly identified one with a playground and a café.  Thomas pushed a little basket around very carefully and sat at the table properly.  The fact that I had bribed him with the promise of a tomato plant and a pair of child-size gardening gloves can probably be glossed over.  The garden centre trip is going down as a success.  Star for me!

When we got home he went straight to bed for a nap without protest.  Star for me!

I considered going outside and decanting my new compost into a trough for Thomas to do some massive mess making educational and life-enhancing garden play when he woke up.  I didn’t.  I sat on my backside instead as Ben was also asleep.  However, as I have mentioned previously, I am a firm believer in it being the thought that counts.  So I am awarding myself a half-star for contemplating a Positive Parenting Experience.
When Thomas got up, we went for a walk.  He took his balance bike and behaved impeccably all round the village.  We then had a stop-off at the Millstream.  This is a piece of land which was recently gifted to the parish by the Duchy of Cornwall, and which is being developed into a nature reserve and park area by the villagers.  I sat and fed Ben while Thomas investigated the stream.  I was feeling very virtuous, having instigated Wholesome Outdoor Activity.  Everything was going very well until the arrival of an older girl who was staying with her grandmother in the village.  Thomas immediately latched onto her and followed her around like a puppy.  I can’t imagine she found his company particularly compelling as his conversation seemed to consist of “Look, I’ve got a stick,” and “Ooh.  Water,” and “I’ve still got feet.  Look.  Feet.”  No, I have no idea what that one was about either.  She was very patient with him and didn’t resort to the time-honoured practice of older children when faced with Annoying Small Child, and simply run away.  Things took a bit of a down-turn, however, when he tried to follow her across the stream, not realising that the reason she could cross without wet feet was not, in fact, that she was emulating Jesus, but because she was wearing wellies.  It apparently came as a great surprise to Thomas that his shoes were a little less waterproof. 

So he stood in the middle of the stream and wailed.  I shouted at him to get out.  He wailed more.  I shouted more. 

The shouting and wailing exchange went on for some time.  Eventually the little girl lost patience, got out of the stream and made her way over to me.

“Get out of the stream!”

“Um, excuse me.  He can’t.  He’s stuck.”

I stopped shouting and listened carefully.  Yes, it did appear that what Thomas was trying to convey was a general sense of stuckness.  I tucked Ben under my arm and stomped across the grass, chuntering and muttering, to haul him out of the stream by the scruff of his neck.  He came out of the ankle-deep mud with a satisfying sucking noise and wandered off as soon as his feet touched dry land.  I then had to fish around in the stream-bottom to find his now-barely-wearable shoes, before giving chase and wrestling him back into his footwear, while he screamed and yelled about sand between his toes. 

All this activity was conducted in between cheery waves to various watching villagers, intended to convey that everything was entirely under control and this was all part of the day’s parenting plan.

I don’t think they were convinced.

I’m giving myself half a star for the walk.  It would have been two stars as it involved both exercise and education, given that I had shown him marjoram and mint growing wild by the stream (which I fully intend to pilfer under cover of darkness every time I want to make mint sauce), but I think leaving a two year-old stuck in a stream-bed for an extended period of time probably warrants fairly extensive deductions. 

Then comes the best bit.  I completed a Project.  Actually, I’m going to give that capitals.  A PROJECT.  I might even put it in bold.  A PROJECT.

A child-orientated project. 

Thomas loves the walks round the village and surrounding area.  When he is not howling in the middle of a stream, that is.  He also loves the pair of maps we have in our hallway, centered on our village and used by his dad for planning cycle routes.

I found this postcard under the sofa the other day.  It came from a pile of postcards from my school/university days and was presumably pilfered by Thomas from the box they were in.  It is a sketch map of the setting of the Winnie the Pooh stories.  It gave me an idea.

I would make Thomas a similar map of the local area so that he could choose his walk routes and add interesting things that he sees.  I was delighted with my own cleverness and hastened to the art shop to buy nice paper and a shiny new pencil.  You have to have a new pencil for A PROJECT.

There was only one problem.

I can’t draw.

At all.

Seriously.  I can’t even draw stick figures with any degree of accuracy.  This is both strange and annoying as my family were all artistic.  That casual, unaware sort of artistic that makes less talented mortals gnash their teeth with envy.  My gran painted landscapes and was also an incredibly skilled copy artist.  She could have made a fortune as a forger had she been a little more enterprising less honest.  My mum could paint and draw in pretty much any medium and did some children’s illustrating at one point.  My granddad could doodle anything.  His father was apparently ambidextrous and could produce beautiful, intricate writing forwards, backwards, upside down or in any direction.  I can only assume my father’s family were some kind of anti-artists in order for me to be quite so lacking in any drawing ability whatsoever.

However, I never let a complete lack of the necessary skills stop me from wading in anyway, so I found a solution. I can’t draw freehand at all, but I do have some basic ability to copy things.  So I dug out two childhood books that have little maps inside the covers, showing the journeys of the main characters.  As an aside, I loved these books – Peter Firmin’s Winter Diary of a Country Rat, and Midsummer Notebook of a Country Rat.  I also studied the Winnie the Pooh illustration and managed some practice sketches that weren’t too grim. 

This was the end result. 

I think it probably rates a Not Too Bad on the scale of parenting successes. It’s not exactly going to land me on the pages of a glossy parenting magazine, smugging about how I use my creativity to entertain my children, rather than resorting to CBeebies, but I think Thomas will like it and I am therefore awarding myself five stars. 

Oh bugger off.  It’s my star chart and if I want to give myself five stars I will.

 With Wednesday’s three stars, I am therefore in credit to the tune of ten stars.

Go me!

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