Thanks for filling me in on how Sam's doing at school. I'm glad he's enjoying it and making friends. I wouldn't worry too much at this stage that he takes a while to get round to things and that he has to be encouraged to be more verbose in his responses - there's every chance he'll come into his own soon. Hopefully it won't always take him a day and a half to think of something to report about his weekend, especially if all he can eventually manage is, 'I watched TV.' (That can't reflect well on your parenting style...) Although, since I only received your Christmas card this morning and it was signed 'Dave, Liz, etc.', I should probably point out that sometimes we get the kids we deserve.
For myself, I can't really complain too much that my boys don't want to leave the house, are allergic to new experiences and love to talk about computer games at length. Given my own inclinations, I shouldn't have expected much else. Whether it's nature or nurture, they've got it from me.
I was thinking about this the other day while watching The Little Mermaid 2 - Return to the Sea. (Bear with me here...) Thanks to Marie, I've seen the original a gazillion times and it drifts over me as I daydream about cute girl/fish hybrids. (Although TLM herself looks a little young these days - it's usually safer if I let my mind wander to other Disney films. Beauty and the Beast, for instance... Or a possible sequel to The Incredibles... Mmmm, that I'd want to see...)
In The Little Mermaid 2 roles get reversed. Ariel goes from being an adventurous teenage mermaid who wants to explore the shore, despite being forbidden by her protective dad, to being a protective mum who forbids her own adventurous teenager from exploring the sea. You can almost hear grandparents everywhere chortling at the poetic justice.
Of course, it all leads to near disaster but at least Ariel finally notices the irony and admits she really should have predicted her daughter's actions. This makes a pretty deep point for a Disney movie:
By looking at ourselves, we can understand our children better.
A scarier point can be made, though, by turning things around: By looking at our children, we can understand ourselves better. Even as this idea came to me, I looked at what my kids were doing and wondered what it revealed. Nothing good, I suspect. You see, although they were only watching a film, there was a lot to be learned from the manner in which they were doing it:
We'd had a secondhand three-seater sofa delivered that day to replace our old bed-settee because, since we don't need the bed anymore, we thought it would be nice to have something a little firmer to actually sit on. (We're getting old.) The people were supposed to deliver the sofa and take the settee to sell.
Except it turned out that the settee didn't have a fire-safety label on the mattress. I'm sure it had one originally but it must have fallen off back in the mists of time. The upshot was that they refused to take the settee away. As Lewis was rather attached to it, I suppose this was ultimately for the best but it did leave us with a three-seater sofa, a two-seater sofa, an armchair and a three-seater settee in our not awfully large lounge. As things stood, drawing the curtains would have involved airborne gymnastics.
I spent half an hour shuffling furniture and children to make everything kind of fit. It was like one of those tile-sliding puzzles but much heavier and more argumentative.
(Oh, and when I say Lewis was attached to the settee, I'm not joking - the moment they turned up to remove it, he latched onto it like a limpet and burst into tears. Luckily, however, he grabbed hold of a cushion rather than the frame, so I was able to pry him off.)
After tea, Marie wanted to watch Little Mermaid 2 in the lounge.
"Lewis is playing the Wii in there," I said. "You can watch the film in Fraser's room."
We went upstairs, I put the film into the flickery portable TV/video combi and she sat down in front of it. Then she insisted I stayed to cuddle her during the scary bits. I sat down next to her.
A minute later, Lewis came through and started to watch.
"I thought you were playing the Wii," I said.
"Nah, I was building a tower with sofa cushions. It's very tall."
"I bet," I sighed. "Are you wanting to watch the film too? If you're not playing the Wii, we can put the film on in the lounge."
"But it's Fraser's turn to play the Wii."
"He's watching CBBC in the kitchen," I said, shaking my head and entertaining the possibility we have too many TVs (and that wasn't taking into account the video projector I'd brought home ready to set up and 'run some tests on'.)
"He'll want to play the Wii when he's finished," said Lewis, mesmerised by mermaids, and sat down next to me.
Five minutes after that, Fraser came to find us. "Why aren't you playing the Wii, Lewis?" he grumbled. "I was giving you extra time."
"It's your turn," Lewis replied, eyes remaining glued to the TV.
"You could have still played."
"No, I couldn't."
Fraser started to say something else but got distracted by animated fish. He stood there for a bit, then sat down next to Lewis.
So, to recap, despite having three sofas between the four of us in the lounge and the potential to create our own cinema, we were all sitting on the floor in Fraser's room, watching a 14-inch telly showing a picture from a VHS player with dodgy tracking.
I considered suggesting we go through to the other room but I knew my kids would only moan and complain. They're resistant to change and can't be bothered to move if they don't have to.
I wondered what this said about me...
Then I decided that thinking about it was too much effort and it would be far easier simply to lie back and think of Mrs Incredible.
So I did.
Yours in a woman's world,
PS I thought Marie was immune to the computer games, preferring to jump about and do craftwork (sometimes at the same time). She's got into the educational games on her Leapster recently, though, and keeps squeaking excitedly about the new levels she's unlocked. Worse, she's not content with merely talking about her achievements - every so often she demands to make a greetings card about them to give to Mummy when she gets home.
Adding glitter to the witter is taking things to a whole new level that I'm not sure even I deserve.
The other day, Marie also demanded that I stand by the front door with the card in hand. I complied until I discovered she wanted me to stay there, waiting to present it to Mummy as soon as she arrived. Since Sarah wasn't due in for another couple of hours, I wasn't hugely impressed and suggested that leaving the card on the kitchen table would be a better plan.
"No, Daddy. I'll stand behind you and tell you when you're standing wrong."
Two hours of being criticised about my posture by a four-year-old definitely wasn't on. I handed her the card and told her to give it to Mummy herself. She whined about it, then took up watch, waiting eagerly for the return of her favourite parent.
I went and made myself a coffee.
Two minutes later Marie came through to the kitchen and put the card down. "Maybe your idea to leave it on the table was a good idea," she said. "I'm going to go play on my Leapster."
I just nodded and smiled...
PPS I take it you don't recommend the card printing service you used: