The Way I See Things



Last night was the most peaceful we've ever enjoyed with the Boy Wonder in the house, and from 7.40am, when we walked into his bedroom and he sprang happily awake, to 8.20pm when he finally sank back into sleep, he has zoomed around like the Duracell Bunny. For most of the day he's been cheerful and cooperative, though inevitably there have been a few bumps in the road. Uncomfortably conscious that his tendency to flip from DEFCON 5 (peace) to DEFCON 1 (war), with no warning or intermediate stage, is a trait inherited via his mother from me, I'm trying to coach him gently towards understanding that it's possible - and maybe even desirable - to talk to us about what he wants, before deciding to throw a total head-fit about our failure to provide it.

Baby steps with that one.

The other thing we rather wish he wouldn't do is to refuse something that's offered, and then suddenly decide that he wants it after all - leading to the necessity for one of us to keep asking, "Are you sure? OK. But are you really, truly, completely sure?" rather than risk the Wrath of the Unreasonably Thwarted Child exploding around our heads. This morning, for example, he was quite definite that he didn't want to go out. No - not to the playground. And no - not to the river to feed the ducks either. He wanted to stay at home. "I don' want to go to the playground. I don' like it." This resolution held right up to the words "supermarket" and "café" being uttered - and then, well, yes, he thought that maybe a trip to the supermarket and a drink and a snack in the café would be acceptable... but still, definitely, no playground and no ducks. A couple of miles from home, as we were preparing to pull into the gliding club car park so he could watch a plane taking off, he suddenly announced that he did want to go to the playground, actually, and then feed the ducks. "Because I like it now." R and I exchanged a glance in the driving mirror, silently congratulating each other on having anticipated this volte-face and brought duck bread.

So we went to Waitrose, where the Boy chose a cookie (hit) and chocolate milk (miss), and then on to the playground, where he directed us in an extremely elaborate game for what felt to me like several hours. It was partly my own fault, for pointing out that one of the pieces of play equipment came to an angle that looked a bit like the prow of a ship - after which R and I found ourselves alternately standing behind the captain on a plunging ship in stormy seas with whales all around us, having to swim to the shore when the ship sank, and being ordered back onto the ship again, when it suddenly and miraculously got fixed. "Oh no! I's broken again! We'll have to swim! Quick!! There's another whale coming!" If you'd told me a few years ago that at the age of 65 I'd be playing riotous imaginary games with a small boy in a public playground with a sizeable audience of Millennial Mummies looking on, I'd have told you you were mad.

At this point it occurred to the supposed adults in the party that it was well past the Boy Wonder's lunch time and he hadn't had sensible food for several hours, so we took the line of least resistance, yomped across the Old Tramway Bridge, and went to Carluccio's. The Boy behaved immaculately. He chose pesto pasta, because of course, and ate most of it despite it being very different to the version he gets at home, and he only turned his nose up at the strawberry ice cream he received for dessert because it tasted of actual strawberries, and he doesn't approve of fruit.

After lunch we meandered down to the river and fed the ducks, and then, because we were all flagging by this stage, R suggested that he should go and fetch the car, which was right at the farthest end of the rec' car park, and bring it back to the south end of the Old Tramway Bridge, while the Boy Wonder and I walked across from the north side at Boy pace to meet him. As we strolled across the Fire Service Memorial on our way to the bridge, B stopped to listen to this busker, who was playing an eclectic range of guitar pieces, and was so clearly rapt that I didn't immediately have the heart to hustle him onwards. This was the last shot in the sequence of him standing still and listening: in the next frame his arms lifted, and he began to dance. Round and round the memorial circle he went, solemnly and with total concentration - completely oblivious to me, the camera, and the passers-by who stopped to watch his performance. It was beautiful, and somehow very moving, and I was only sad that his Granddad wasn't there to see it too.

Back at home, B announced that I was making an apple pudding, which was news to me, but once he'd collected some windfall apples from the garden it would have been churlish to have said no, so I let him stand on his hop-up step and watch me prepare it. While it was in the oven he was allowed to say what he wanted for dinner, and chose pesto pasta ("Again? Really??" "Yes."), and once the pudding had cooled ("We have to be careful, because it's streemly hot,") I gave him a small portion. He liked the cakey part, he said, but not "these bits" - these bits being, I probably don't even need to tell you, the slices of apple.

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