Tuesday, 11 November 2008

More fragments

BMF does not like Monifa

Monifa, the baby pygmy hippo is much in the minds of my corner of the internets at the moment. Damn, I love that hippo. I am hatching a plan with Persephone to kidnap it. However, in a moment of inattention I mentioned it to BMF. BMF hates animals.

BMF to E: That sounds, erm, interesting. Send me the link.

E to BMF: By "interesting", you mean hideous, right? Here you go. I will be fascinated to see if you find her repugnant. I can't actually believe it is possible.

BMF to E: OH MY GOD I haven't even started the video but even the still shot is JUST SO REVOLTING. It just looks so, sooo BIOLOGICAL. I was honestly nearly sick. Disgusting.

E to BMF: Jesus, man. I really didn't believe you could hate Monifa. Once more you amaze me. Do watch it though.

BMF to E: Ok. So it is a hippo. That bit where in nibbles the woman's arm, eurk. And I bet it must smell HORRIBLE. But other than that, not so repugnant. I would not touch it though.

E to BMF: This conversation is the best thing to happen to me all day. I had forgotten how much fun it is to show you animals. I really must remember to do it more often.

I am the worst mother in the world

Later, the CFO and I were really really really bad parents. I can barely write this down because I am genuinely ashamed. If I hadn't taken the precaution of ensuring there are several plants in the house (my friend the family law barrister has told me that having green stuff in your house is a Cast. Iron. Guarantee. that you won't get your children taken into care, I pass this on in case it is of use to any of you as it clearly is to me), I would be waiting for the knock to take him away. I am being flippant, but it was actually bad. Properly bad.

So, I put dinner on the table and call the boys in. I have succumbed to the secret tv channel of Francophone ghastly Japanese anime I had been keeping in reserve for a rainy day, so bad has the squabbling been, so wrenching Lashes away from the tv is even harder than usual. He sees the dinner and starts weeping and moaning hystrionically about how DISGUSTING it is. He holds his nose, and says it stinks. It is cannelloni (does the canneloni take one or two 'l's?). I did not make it, so it is actually quite nice. Not out of a supermarket box, handmade by someone who knows their stuff (they raise their own chickens and make them into tasty meals for lazy, guilt-ridden city dwellers like me who would rather their food came cuboid and microwaveable and not looking like it was made from something sentient). Last week everyone ate it without complaint. Tonight, Lashes looks at it with the most piteous expression imaginable, like he is being tortured. Fingers goes the other route and doesn't eat any of it, but discreetly, while eating the other stuff on his plate. He, however, is also driving us crazy by refusing to speak, but gesturing imperiously at things he wants. It's presumably a parrot thing. The CFO and I are feeling oddly giggly at our children's bad behaviour, especially Lashes' pained grimaces. Little broken sobs keep escaping from his throat as he pushes the canneloni around like it is a pile of cat sick.

"You know what our parents said to US when we were like that?" says the CFO.

"If the wind changes you'll stay like that?" I suggest.

"No, il y a des gens plus malheureux que toi dans le monde" (there are people worse off than you).

"Though you would never guess to look at you, Lashes" I add. Lashes is separating each individual cube of carrot out of the canneloni with pained repulsion, holding his fork between his thumb and index finger. Sometimes he dry retches when he sees a bit he particularly hates. "Oh! And they said 'think of the starving in Africa'"

"Yes!" says the CFO enthusiastically, warming to his theme "'There are children in Africa who would be glad of that food!'"

"But you know what the response to that is, right?" I whisper to him over the boys' heads "'Then give it to the African children! They can have it!'"

Then the conversation takes a darker turn.

"Is it true there are children in African with no food?" says Lashes, mournfully.

"Yes" says the CFO "And they would be SO GLAD to get your dinner. They have no food at all"

"Some of them have to eat boring porridge or rice EVERY DAY, with no sweets or ketchup or anything nice at all"

"And some of them have nothing to eat at all"

"But, but what happens to them?"

"I'm afraid sometimes some of them die".

I nod solemnly in agreement. (I cannot pretend I did not participate in this. I did and I really feel like crap), as Lashes bursts into tears, proper sad ones, and runs away.

"Don't tell me choses tristes!" (sad things) he cries inconsolably, his voice catching as he sags halfway up the stairs. I run after him and hug him and feel like the lowest lowest worm. He spends the rest of the evening drawing the saddest little pictures ever. Most of them incorporate his initial (T) in sad faces.

He asks me to add the text to the picture below:

It reads "There should only be friends in the world. If there were only enemies, the world would be a much sadder place. We must put friends in the world." Argh.

Poor Lashes. He is garrulous, and argumentative and a bit of a smart arse, and sometimes we forget he is only six and actually a total softie, with a weakness for babies, small reptilian things and sad stories. I should have remembered he cried and refused to eat lamb only last month "because it's only a baby!" He is small and raw and even if he wasn't, we were being cynical, black hearted gits.

So, I was a bitch to my six year old yesterday. I am not proud.


La Belette Rouge said...

I fear that the BMF might be right about he baby hippo being a bit on the odoriferous side. But, I am sure the baby hippos would have eaten the children's unwanted dinner. They are sort of a stinky and cute garbage disposal. I heard that they are big in Japan for that very reason. An environmentally friendly pet who will eat your garbage.( I just made that up. Pardon my stating the obvious).

I see that you have impacted Lashes art, even his stick figures have cabbage leaf faces.

I think I am going to add that to my list of personal mottoes, "Don't tell me choses tristes!" Poor Lashes.;-)

Stephen said...

Loved your "worst mother" post. Its funny how children will react to stories of suffering, sympathizing with the victims, but not accepting the logic that they themselves are therefore the fortunate ones. At all events they still won't eat up. Still, look on the bright side, when they are older they will be able to tell stories (or at least one) of the meanness of their parents.
It is unlikely that any harm has been done to Lashes, and you should bear in mind that these "choses tristes" are exactly that, and the victims are real victims.
I cannot think of a better way to learn a little bit about the truth of the sometimes painful reality of the world, than in the arms of a loving family.

Kate said...

I thought it was going to be so much worse than that!

The other day I put all of my daughters toys out on the deck. Pretty much every last one. Because I am sick of picking them up and she was refusing to pick any up at all or help at all and instead chucked blocks onto the floor. I know. Bad mom. But now she picks up her stuff... for now.

Anonymous said...

I thought it would be much, much worse as well! You are not the worst mother in the world. Do not worry, things like this happen to the best of us.

Note: I am certainly not among "the best of us."

Jaywalker said...

I think maybe you had to be there and see his little face collapse to get the full shame burn. But thank you for the consolation, all - Kate, anon, Stephen.

Stephen, you are of course right, and comforting, but I do feel like crap. And it is probably a good thing, maybe I will be a bit less flippant in future (for the next few weeks til my real nature reasserts itself).

Belette - practical as well as ridiculously sweet! I'll take five.

justme said...

Poor Lashes! But poor you too.......it wasn't SO bad! I think I agree with stephen said.

Nimble said...

Sarcasm at a small child does turn to ashes quite quickly. But you didn't even scream at them! When my children refuse to eat what I've put in front of them and act as though it's minced earthworms, it makes me angry. I find myself rolling my eyes, and growling about not fixing a separate meal. Soemtimes I stomp my foot too, because that's such a mature way to persuade children to eat. I try to remain philosophical but that sort of protest seems to be a particular bugaboo for me.

Jaywalker said...

Nimble - oh, the shouting comes as standard. Especially 'oh shut UP'. I think parents hating their children refusing food is probably an evolutionary thing isn't it? Not that that makes it much better.

Justme - argh. I hope so.

Red Shoes said...

Oh dear. Poor famille. The thing to remember is that afterward, you went and loved him and hugged and consoled him. You respected his feelings on the issue. You made amends through artwork. This is far more important than the sad story telling. It is the mark of a very good mother. Don't worry.

Red Shoes said...

Oh, and Pygmy baby hippo? MINE! Give. It. To. Me!

Also, it is a sad day... I went to mail your package and forgot that it is a holiday here. Veterans Day. Stupid bank and postal service holidays!

Completely Alienne said...

Don't beat yourself up - we've all done it. I have lost count of the times I have felt ashamed of myself for doing something similar, with or without the shouting.

Think I'll pass on the baby hippo. My eldest has a photo of a very small pig in her room - it is the same height as a daffodil (I know because there's one in the picture). I want one of them - environmentally friendly waste disposal but much smaller than a hippo. And probably easier to bath if it gets smelly.

Potty Mummy said...

Don't feel too bad about it. My oldest does the same tortured expression when given food he doesn't like (about 50% of the time. It would be more but I cave the other 50%), and it drives me crazy, makes me cross, and sometimes turns me into a not particularly nice person. At least, that's what i think. My husband tells me I'm fine, they love me, and not to worry. He's probably right - but guilt is part of a mother's condition, isn't it?

Potty Mummy said...

BTW - just checked out the hippo. Wow...

katyboo1 said...

troublingly, my children enjoy hearing about other people's misfortunes.

They are right. You said sorry and you repented. It was the best thing that you could do. You taught him good stuff. Unfortunately sometimes that sucks.

I had a plan when I lived in London to turn the bottom half of my garden into a wallow patch for pygmy hippos. I fell in love with them when we went to Whipsnade for the day. Georgosity

Kitschen Pink said...

I used to tell the beautiful boy that if he did not put away toys but rather left them out to be lost or broken, I would simply take them to a charity shop so that they could sell them to raise money to help those less lucky than us. Now he clears out his toys and specifies which charity they should go to as he liked the idea so much.... And six is such a little little time on the planet to comprehend all the nasty stuff.
I was scared of food until I was about 14. My crowning moment was when my father force fed me tinned mandarins in evaporated milk (eeugh!) and I puked the lot onto the sofa - TA-DA! I distinctly remember the feeling of victory! t.x

expateek said...

Sorry, this is Ancient Mother responding... but I don't see anything particularly awful about your response.

There ARE children starving in Zim. And the Sudan. And India. And Malawi. And a jillion other places. And MANY people would be happy to eat rectangular microwaved canneloni.

It's just THE TRUTH.

It is just so FREAKIN true.

Why mince words? So he was shocked. So he's only little. So.

These things NEED TO BE SAID.

And it's not wrong, because children need to learn empathy. They are too small and undeveloped to absorb the harsh awful truth of end-of-life starvation, and raw suffering, and naked want, (as someone above my comment has already said), but this is a lesson that needs to begin at some point. NOW is a good time.

My oldest (now 25 and well nourished, he's fine in spite of my parenting! gosh!) at age five would come in from outside, sniff at the skillet, and declare, "I HATE THAT."

I wiffled and waffled and adjusted and altered, cooked other stuff and tried harder and felt sad and frustrated and awful and like a wretched mother, until finally one day I lost it and said, "Actually, nevermind, don't worry. This, in this pot, it isn't for you."


"No. I'm cooking this for everyone else. You can have whatever. A peanut butter sandwich. Or crackers."

"Because. Actually. It's food, and I cooked it for you. And you're lucky to have it. Eat or don't, I don't care. If you don't eat now, I'll see you at breakfast. IF you want."

I don't even remember the specific outcome that day. But we did get rid of the "I hate that."

And now, age 25.... I think he's pretty happy to put food on his own table. He is a lovely grown-up man, and he enjoys all sorts of food and probably doesn't remember any of this (I'll ask him at Xmas).

But don't stress.

There is no shame in telling the truth. If they're too small to absorb it, it'll go right over their heads.

If they take some on board -- even with unexpected emotional reactions -- then I say, "Good".

You have to start somewhere.

God, it was FOOD.

Children don't know what's good for them.

Apologies for being so humourless. But you must not take his reaction to heart.

Who IS the parent?
Who KNOWS what's what?
Who is aware enough to care about all of this?

It's you, Ms Jaywalker darling, it's YOU. Don't let the momentary tears and tantrums of a child distract you from what you know is right.

Again, I think I'm being "too serious" in the Land of Blog, but I really want you to listen.

Because I think about you often and I care about you.

Baby Hippo? Mmmmm... will have to check this thing out. Is it edible?

OT KG 68 said...

Ahhh... the old children in Africa routine. I think that is a universal bit. I've always wondered what an African mother tells her children. "There are Americans who are FORCED to eat their dinner!" "Dont make us eat like the Americans, mommy, please!"

undersundog said...

Tell lashes if he doesn't behave you'll airmail his canelloni to Taiwan, because I would gladly relieve him of it.

Thanks for stopping by, I dig your blog!

Jaywalker said...

Ok I will reply properly to all you lovely people soon, when I have found out how to dial into a press conference about car glass BUT expateek, all your sentiments are absolutely right, and I don't take issue with it being ok for him to know this stuff and start to understand.

What bothered me was that we were being all adult and cynical and making a joke of it (the old 'starving in africa' chestnut, hahahah') and he, being a proper box fresh small human with proper immediate reactions, had the RIGHT response, which is to be totally appalled and saddened.

Am I making sense? No? More coffee needed.

expateek said...

Aha. I see your point. About cynicism v naivete. Hmm. I KNEW I was being too lecture-y.

Enjoy your coffee. You're doing fine!

Jaywalker said...

No, not at all. You are lovely. The coffee tastes like ass. It's a long office saga....

Jaywalker said...

RedShoes - the hippo is mine, back off lady! "Snorgle-worthy" Schmutzie called it, which I love. Also, thank you for being nice.

CA- Hmm, a tiny pig. You interest me strangely. Picture?

PM - My personal favourite is when they regurgitate something because it is SO DISGUSTING they can't possibly swallow.

Katyboo - I sponsored the one at the zoo for a year, but sadly it did not mean I was allowed to take it home for that year. Most disappointing.

KP - That does sound extra specially grim... Did they stop trying to force you then? Mine was beetroot. Diabolical vegetable.

Ot KG 68 - Is there a parent in the world that hasn't used a variant on this? I doubt.

Undersundog - yeah, I thought you might weep at the thought of the delicious wasted cheese.. Everyone, go read undersundog. I found her through NaBloPoMo and she is ace.

Completely Alienne said...

Believe me, the teeny tiny pig is beautiful. Sadly, I am technologically incompetent. When one of the brats gets home I will get them to show me how to put his picture on the internet for you.

pochyemu said...

What I'm about to admit is very embarrassing, but hey ho! I'm afraid it's so good I just can't keep it to myself!

I read your post whilst doing my Tesco shopping online (ironic and First World!). I thought, 'Oh dear, everyone's all sad at the moment' (as it had been an awfully rough day for us too). Then I went to bed.

Well, fuck me if your post and my shopping didn't throw my subconcious into a tizzy! I dreamt that I was doing my online shopping and thought, hey, Jaywalker's upset, I should order her some apples and milk (?) and stuff to make it better, because won't she be surprised when the groceries arrive at her door! (Won't she indeed!)

But then I thought, fuck, I don't have her home address (or your name, but, those things don't matter in a dream), so VERY CLEVERLY I thought, hey! I'm SURE she uses Tesco online shopping, I'll just log in as her and try and use my card to pay for it! Then it'll have her delivery details already loaded! So I logged in (Your username and password must have been 00000 or summink cause I ain't a hacker, yo) and voila! Clicked deliver but forgot to use MY card!

Well! Then! You rang the POLICE! The BELGIAN police! Because someone's been fraudulently using your card! To deliver your groceries to you! The bloody cheek! And they FOUND me. And arrested me. And you and I had to meet in a bus stop and I had to explain I was just trying to cheer you up and you were very nice about it and I was all upset I'd made you mad.

Now. THAT. Is fucked up.

Jaywalker said...

Oh, I just love that Pochyemu. Apples and milk - you shouldn't have! But I love the amazing persistence of your sleep self, the weird complexity of the payment arrangements and also the fact that I was nice about it in your dream. In real life I would never have noticed anyone using my card..
Anyway. I love you. My dream self loves your dream self. That is all.

Léonie said...

Oh no. That must have been heartbreaking. But, you're only human and can't anticipate your children's responses all the time, right? If you're meant to be able to do that then I am stocking up on the birth control forever.

At the children's party I did the other week I accidentally mocked a little boy. We were going round the circle saying our names and something we liked. The rest of the children were saying the usual stuff, like "my name's Lucy and I like bunnies", or "my name's Emma and I like pygmy hippos", etc, and one little boy intoned, very seriously "my name's Lucas, and I am rather interested in the first and second world wars".

I couldn't stop myself gently mocking him for the rest of the party. I think I assumed that because he was a little older than the rest he would understand my wry humour (read: horrible meanness). But then after one comment I made I saw his little lip start to wobble a bit, and I felt fucking awful. He may have been older, but he was still only eight and was just being earnest, and I ridiculed him for it.

What sort of bitch runs parties for kids and mocks them relentlessly throughout? Oh God. I know it wasn't my child, so it's different, but I suppose it's the same thing - a moment of forgetting that children haven't become resilient to things yet. I thought he would get that I was joking, but he didn't.

I don't think it makes you a bad mother. Oh and I love his pictures, they are beautiful.

Jaywalker said...

Oh! Lucas! Léonie, you have made me laugh out loud on the corridor of silent doom again. Now ponderous bearded gentlemen will poke their head round the door to ask why and I will be at a loss and unable to tell them.

More seriously, it sounds like the exact same feeling. That "Oh. I unintentionally picked on someone much smaller than me. I am a heartless bitch". Thank you for making me feel less alone!

Red Shoes said...

Wow, Pochyemu wins the Best Comment Ever prize.

Mr Farty said...

When Little Miss Farty was twelve, I told her that all the food that she'd refused to eat over the years had been stored up and would be delivered in a truck when she got her own house. I could see her mind working as she tried to figure out if I was joking.

I'm a bad dad.

Which reminds me, anybody got the number for Pickfords?

Jaywalker said...

Red Shoes - yes, I agree. Pochyemu, you get a Belgian prize.

Mr F - Hmm. Interesting. Any discernible effect?

pochyemu said...

A Belgian prize?! Oh, la! But I honestly can't take credit! It's all down to the wires in my brain that really ought to be clipped!

Jaywalker said...

Eh, that only helps. Yes! You must have a prize!