1.When you originally decide to take your three year old on a shopping trip, your intentions will be good. The afternoons are so very long and there is a nice local shopping centre you can go to which has a little soft play area. This will kill a couple of hours. Your three year old needs some new paints to feed his Arts and Crafts habit and, while you are there, he can choose himself an advent calendar.
2.On the way to the shopping centre, after you have picked him up from kindergarten, your three year old will be hungry. He has just had a three course meal at nursery and you bought him a snack when you picked him up but, still, he will be “starving”. He will draw out his most effective weapon, a.k.a. the whinge. You inform him that if he is going to whinge, we will go straight home. There will be no paints. There will be no advent calendar. He stops immediately. Once or twice he forgets himself as you make your way to the shops, but after a stern look, the whinge turns into a pretend coughing fit. “Just coughing, Mummy,” he will enlighten you innocently.
3.As you stand in front of the Viennese shelves of advent calendars, you will be filled with jealous longing. There will be Lindt ones, there will be After Eight ones, there will be Ferrero Rocher ones. There will be advent calendars half a metre tall. You would very much like a grown up advent calendar. But you can’t buy one for yourself, can you? That would be ridiculous. As your son debates whether he wants a Smarites one, a Kinder one or a Mickey Mouse one, you will realise that this is the first year your own mother has not bought you yourself an advent calendar. How can I drop a big enough hint to my husband that he will go out and get me one of these advent calendars, you will wonder. Then you will have a brainwave – you will go home and write a blog about it. If that doesn’t do the trick, nothing will.
4. As soon as you have put your son’s advent calendar of choice (Kinder chocolate) into the shopping basket and are ready to move on to the stationery aisle to look for some paints, your son will need a poo. First of all you will check, “Do you really need a poo?” To which he will reply, “I really need a poo NOW!” You will have no option but to leave the basket with the advent calendar on top of a display of Playmobil and leave the shop.
5.When you return to the shop, you will discover that the poster paints are not in the aisle with the other paints: they are actually in the toy section. This means you will have to steer your three year old past countless shelves of toys before you get to your goal. You probably could have made it without incident, but, unfortunately, you happen to notice that Lightning McQueen (which is on a certain person’s Christmas list) has been reduced to €32 and it is currently £32 on Amazon, making it a significantly better buy over here. No matter that you have already blown the budget for your child’s Christmas presents. No matter that it looks as if you are going to have to pay £30 for a £13 Paw Patrol toy, the last one that you haven’t managed to get yet. You will step up to Lightning McQueen and check him out. Your son will innocently follow and will not be able to help but realise that he is surrounded by toys.
“Can I have a toy?” he will ask.
“No,” you will say firmly. “You’re getting paints and an advent calendar. That’s your treat.”
“But Star Wars!” he points to the Star Wars toys you have inadvertently drawn his attention to.
Then you will hastily move away to find the paints. It’s too late, of course. The Whinge has started up. It is constant and relentless. You still have to drag him to the supermarket. You are so very tired where you haven’t been sleeping well. You have no protection against The Whinge. Even though your husband will shake his head at you, even though one of your aunts (known as Witch 3) reads your blogs and infers you give in too much, you give in. But, in your defence, you will insist he pays for the extortionate €16.99 lightsaber (which doesn’t even light up) out of his pocket money.
6.When you get to the supermarket, you will be so completely loaded down, you will not be able to hold the shopping basket. You are holding your son’s scooter, your son’s hand, and the bag of shopping from the other shop. Your son will refuse to hold anything apart from the lightsaber.
7. The Whinge will pursue you the whole way around the supermarket. He wants you to open the lightsaber. There is no way on God’s earth you are letting your son loose in a supermarket with a maximum potential damage causing toy like a lightsaber. This, finally, is when you will lose your patience.
“Mummy, can you open my lightsaber?”
“But I want my lightsaber.”
“You’ll have to wait!”
Repeat conversation x 10.
8.When you get to the soft play area, there will be nowhere for you to sit. You drag a beanbag over to the wall and plonk yourself down next to a sticky patch. A three year old girl will come and sit next to you and apply her lip-gloss. Do three year olds wear lip-gloss these days, you will wonder in dismay. But no. It’s her sister’s lip-gloss. Said sister will then come over to your beanbag and start to grapple with said three year old for said lip-gloss.
9.Once your son has been in the soft play area for one minute and thirty seconds, he will inform you he is hungry. Luckily, you have bought him a kipferl (sweet, horn-shaped bread roll) in the supermarket. He happily takes the kipferl over to the television and watches Donald Duck in German while he enjoys his snack.
10.You will realise you haven’t eaten lunch.
11.You will smile at your child fondly as he tries to make friends with three older children who are coming down the slide with their arms wrapped around each other’s waists. Your heart will give a little squeeze as your son tries to converse with these children who don’t speak the same language and ignore him. You will feel relieved when your son discovers Lip Gloss Girl is willing to play. You will feel concerned when he chases her and rugby tackles her to the floor. An actual rugby tackle. That his father has taught him. Soft Play is always emotional.
12.When you decide it is time to go, you will struggle to get off the beanbag.
13.Once you manage to drag your son away from his new playmate and put his shoes back on, he will remember the lightsaber. Despite you shouting after him, he will launch into the (very small) soft play area brandishing this weapon about, whacking the other children and generally pissing them off.
14.You will be in a bad mood for the rest of the day. Tony from O2 better not ring you to inform you that your mobile phone is eligible for an upgrade, not after you get a phone call telling you this every single day, not after you have told them several million times that you are not living in the country and therefore do not need an upgrade. Tony from O2 is going to get his head bitten off.
15.When your husband gets home from work, he will raise his eyebrows at you as your son darts about sweeping his lightsaber across the sky.
“Where did this come from?” he will ask your son but really be asking you.
“The shops. Mummy got it. At first she said no but then I was whingeing and she did say yes.”
Thank you very much for that, my Noah.
Six weeks ago, I glanced at Noah and did a double take. Not only was he sitting down with a colouring book in front of him, miraculously, he was actually colouring in. Up until this point, Noah’s interaction with colouring books involved him picking up a crayon (usually black) and scribbling all over the picture on the page, then turning to the next page and doing the same until the whole colouring book was one mass of scribbled out pictures. To my dismay, I found Noah could actually colour in amazingly well for a three year old. And thus, Mini Maker was born.
Noah is a child who develops obsessional phases with things. As quickly as these phases come, they are gone again. Once he had an obsession with clementines and would eat at least five every day. When he was eighteen months old, he had an obsession with sticker books. “Stick-stick” was one of his first words. I was spending about £30 a month on the things and that was me limiting myself. His latest obsession is arts and crafts and, like most of Noah’s obsessions, this one is relentless and exhausting.
Every day when I pick him up from kindergarten, he presents me with a pile of drawings which he claims are for me. When my husband gets home from work, he is then presented with the same drawings which are now for him. Sometimes, the kindergarten make things with the children to adorn the walls. Noah has issues with this. He doesn’t want to leave things he has made at kindergarten, he wants to bring them home the very same day. A couple of weeks ago, I arrived to find cardboard owls hanging from the ceiling. Noah pointed out his one and wanted to take it home. “You can take it home next week,” the practitioner told him. A meltdown ensued. The owl was removed from the ceiling and has since been sitting on our bookshelf. We spent most of that week making owls at home. We must have made ten owls, one of which was taken back into kindergarten and presented to the pedagog.
Whenever we go back to England, my Aunt buys Noah a present. When we returned in October, she had bought him a whole bag of arts and crafts goodies – colouring pencils, stickers, a sharpener, pencil case, coloured paper, scissors and, Noah’s favourite, “MY VERY OWN SELLOTAPE!!!” I left him with my Dad while I went to look at a primary school we are thinking of sending him to. When I left at 9 a.m., Noah and Dad were at the kitchen table making things with pompoms and pipe cleaners. When I returned at 11 a.m., Noah and Dad were still at the kitchen table making things with pompoms and pipe cleaners.
I stalk Pinterest for ideas. It’s like being a teacher all over again, planning my lessons with Noah. He knows his own mind when it comes to his artistic creations. He knows his own mind full stop. He won’t be guided and our creations are never Pinterest worthy. The week of Halloween, we did potato stamping in the shape of a pumpkin. But Noah didn’t like the pumpkins having eyes and mouth so he painted over them. We also did finger-painting around a bat shape on black paper. This was a particular favourite and he asked to do it again a few days later. When he said, “I want to make a bat,” I thought he said, “I want to make a rat,” so I cut him out a giant rat shape. This caused a meltdown until I finally understood what he meant. Then he painted the rat too.
If I hear the Mr. Maker theme tune, I have to shoot across the room and pay full attention because, at some point that day, I will be asked to replicate whatever it was Mr. Maker made.
Noah: Can you draw me what Mr. Maker drew this morning?
Me: What was it?
Noah: That thing that Mr. Maker drew this morning!
Me: What did Mr. Maker draw this morning?
Noah: I don’t know. Do you know?
Me: No, I don’t know. What did it look like?
Noah: A fridge with feet.
Me: A fridge? A fridge that we put food inside? With feet?
Noah: I SAID I WANT THAT THING THAT MR MAKER DID DRAW THIS MORNING!!!!
Obviously, I am delighted Noah is exploring his creative side. I am delighted that he has proved himself capable of sitting down and doing an activity calmly for a prolonged period of time. But as well as the fact that his constant desire to make things is intense, it is also problematic in other ways. Firstly, it’s expensive. I bought him a big pack of paper and set of felt tip pens (never again) in IKEA and they were used up within a week. I’ve also bought him countless craft kits – wooden elephants, paper boxes, foam dinosaurs, Christmas cards. Second problem: it’s messy. Last week, I was on the phone to the council about reinstating our parking permit and Noah was painting at the kitchen table. He spilt an entire pot of blue paint on my Mum’s upholstered chair. I had to phone her in hospital to break the news. Today, Noah started to paint the outside of the paint pots. I told him to stop so he roared in outrage and threw the purple paint pot at the white kitchen wall. He has several tops I cannot get the paint out of to save my life. But my biggest problem is that I am running out of ideas. We have already made Christmas cards for everyone we know. Maybe we should make Happy New Year cards too…
Maybe my Noah will be a world famous artist one day. Maybe he will win the Turner Prize and I will be interviewed about what he was like as a child and I will be able to regale journalists with these tales. Most likely, Noah will have grown out of this phase by Christmas and all the craft kits I have stuffed his sack with will remain unopened, left on the shelf to grow dusty because that is the way things go with a three year old. Or is that just my Noah?