Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thinking outside the box

We’re moving house, a monumental upheaval that is making me sweat just thinking about the lists I have to write. But to distract myself from the enormity of the task ahead, I have started packing away completely useless boxes of stuff that bear no relation to the actual packing that is required. I know there is a voice out there somewhere telling me to face my fear and all that, but right now, I’m putting a box together of wrapping paper, random ribbons and torn tissue papers, lovingly marking it “present wrapping stuff”.

Anyway, there I was, rolling ribbons, when my girls came into the room. “That’s that” I thought, as a long afternoon loomed before me trying to distract them while I carefully folded tissue paper that will probably never actually be used to wrap any presents. But before I could say “Shoo”, Daisy spotted the large cardboard boxes. In she got and literally didn’t emerge for two and a half hours. TWO AND A HALF HOURS! Of contained, happy, non-needy fun! And of course it made me raise my eyes to the heaven – because once again my mum was right. “Why do you need all these toys? You buy them too much stuff – you’re spoiling those kids. In my day you played with a box!” Of course I would smirk in a condescending way – no child would ACTUALLY play with a box. That’s just folklore. Myth. Annoying mother-isms.

But no, I can now confirm, all a child needs to be happy is a box. And in case you doubt me, here is a list of the things Daisy has done with the box (might as well get at least one list off my chest):
· Decorated it with a choice of felt-tip pens and unfortunately a rather nice Estee Lauder Rose pink lipstick
· Played house.
· Cast away in a ship.
· Made it her bed (“sleepy sleepy box”)
· Filled it with things.
· Emptied it of things.
· Pushed Poppy around in it thus making it a pram
· Sat in it constantly asking “Close the box mummy”
· Took in her torch to explore.
· Opened the bottom and made a tunnel.

At one point, Poppy and I fed her grapes through the handle hole (“It’s a window mummy”) just in case she expired from boxed-in exhaustion. She is so delighted with her plain brown box it was the first thing she showed her best friend today on a play date.

So there you go. While my daughter is thinking inside the box, I’m having to think outside of it and get writing those lists. And if it all gets a bit much, I might just get in there myself…

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Outshone, outperformed and outnumbered

We spent the weekend in Galway, shooting a TV programme on family holiday breaks for the Seoige show where I do the weekly book review. You know the sort of thing, just an intimate affair – hubby, myself and the girls – and a TV crew. You can imagine the nightmares I was having – not only were I and the hubby to be on best behaviour (not easy at the best of times as we negotiate the minefield of activities, mealtimes and strange beds with two temperamental toddlers) – but a camera was going to record every tantrum, every sullen response, every food flinging fiasco of my daughters. Standing in front of a camera and talking was nothing on the fraught forebodings I had of my family in meltdown on national TV.

It didn’t begin well. Planning to shoot for two hours in the aquarium (“My kids love aquariums!” I had enthusiastically told the producer) was put in jeopardy by Daisy’s hysterics the minute we arrived, clutching hubby’s neck whilst screeching “I wanna go home!” for the entire visit. I ended up presenting the section on sharks by myself while hubby retreated with the girls to the shop where only fish on display where of the cuddly kind.

I looked at the long list of activities we had to film over two days and inwardly groaned. What’s that they say about working with children? Add to that, the fact they were my own and that meant revenge for all those forced broccoli sessions, and I was having a quick re-think about my career options.

But like all things with my girls, they surprised me in the most wonderful way. Once the horrors of the deep where forgotten, they laughed and chuckled and flirted outrageously with the cameraman. I saw them through the eyes of the lens and they outshone, outperformed and outnumbered me on every level. I might have been presenting the programme, but they definitely stole the show. There is no way I am able to compete with gappy grins and girlie giggles. And that is the greatest thing about being a mum. I am no longer the most important person in my life. It is no longer the “Me, Myself and I” show - I step aside, and give you, the one and only…. Daisy and Poppy show. And I have the best seat in the house.