Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Independence day

Up and about early today. Because today we're going back to Tudor times to learn about Christmas celebrations. This means Shark, Squirrel and Tiger get to wear their Kentwell Hall costumes again in public, an event which they have been looking forward to for weeks; and mummy Grit gets to heave a big sigh of relief because the kids get transported off in a workshop to be someone else's responsibility for a whole two hours.

And today I am going to be mean. I am responding to the way Shark, Squirrel and Tiger sometimes hide behind each other in awkward social situations until Shark gets pushed forward because she's 1 millimetre taller and born first, pipping Squirrel by a minute, which makes her the biggest and oldest and therefore bravest. Watching this display of shy triplets who probably think no-one's noticed them when, in fact, the gaze of the entire room has been turned to this three-headed struggle and whispers of 'You do it', has made me think that perhaps sometimes I am sheltering these children too much. Perhaps I am leaping ahead of them instead of hiding behind them.

Well, now is the time. It is nothing to do with the fact that after three days of intense discussion on the Romans, field drainage, dinosaurs, chickens, and Abraham Darby, I'm up for a bit of time off. No. I want the children to be more independent. And today I am determined to make a stand. No more will I hover about them, anxiously ready to leap in and help with some embarrassment. No longer will I stay to watch proceedings and fuss about who's doing this or that. No way will I be wittering about which group Shark might be in. And on no account will I help pass resources quietly under the table before the tears pop out.

No. No. No, I tell Shark, Squirrel and Tiger. Today you must be independent. You are aged seven. That's old enough to be able to deal with some things on your own account and not always rely on me fussing or Shark doing the asking because she's the only one bold enough to step forward for something really embarrassing like a crayon or a bit of paper. You need to be brave today, I say, as everyone is leaping into their costumes and fiddling with hair and sleeves and pearl necklaces.

When we arrive, just on time, with Shark, Squirrel and Tiger all dressed up, we are plunged into a huge and excited crowd of kids in costume, anticipating two hours of Tudor dancing, mumming, and other celebratory traditions.

In the midst of this I whisper 'Do you want me to come with you?' Shark turns round, rolls her eyes and pokes me in the chest with a reproving finger. 'Mummy!' she whispers in admonishment. She gets hold of Squirrel's hand. I can see Tiger and Squirrel aren't even paying attention to my anxious fussing. They're eyeing up the lords and ladies table, sussing out which seats will be theirs if they join hands, build a three-person barricade, block off the competition, stick out remaining elbows, and run fast enough.


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