Saturday, 20 March 2010

Shut up. You're going.

After breakfast I walk the kids over to the University of Southampton.

I don't make them start from Buckinghamshire, obviously, as the distance to cover is maybe a hundred miles. Shark cannot walk that far before lunch. I did think about it, because of the cost of petrol. But no. I am indulgent. We stay overnight at the Premier Inn.

(I may write about the Premier Inn later, because I love them, and I wonder if I can do a deal where I get free vegetarian sausages for the rest of my life?)

Anyway, we have come to the University of Southampton because it's the Ocean and Earth Day. Don't say you didn't know!

I have an obvious reason to come here, at the dropping-off point of England. I gave birth to a long-haired fish fan. It's that simple. There is no option but to bring her. Soon I may receive an invite from the local library near Nether Wallop saying Hey Grit! We have a new book in the library on the black tip reef shark! Do you want to bring Shark over to praise it? And I will think about this invite for one second before replying We'll be right there! We will stay in the Premier Inn overnight and eat their delicious mouth watering vegetarian sausages for breakfast!

But I have to bring Squirrel and Tiger too. I believe Social Services might have something to say about my other idea of locking them in the house for three days with a can opener and a selection of baked beans.

Well I pay for the decision one way or another. Squirrel and Tiger have been sulking that they are forced to come and they never have anything they want and Shark has everything and we have to tour the entire universe worshipping swim bladders and that is so unfair because horses have tails and there are black holes and why can't we look at those instead?

SHUT UP. YOU'RE GOING seems to be the only answer to complaints of that sort, which I hope you do with your offspring too. Reminding kids of the time we drove 150 miles to the planetarium, or the month we put up five hundred quid to sit on a horse on the Isle of Wight - that is all totally pointless. Kids only ever remember the grudge. That time you forced them to wear clothes when they didn't want to? Outside, in the rain? You unreasonable parent!

So here we are at the Ocean and Earth Day, and Shark pushes off to do her own thing because frankly the family is embarrassing. OK, on that she is right. You should see us. And I have hair! On my head!

Somehow the rest of us end up in the geology department. Tiger spends a long time, and I mean a long time, staring transfixed at the earthquake machine. So long in fact that the guy there might start to feel it is a bit creepy and weird, having a little kid in a fluffy coat totally blown away with his construction.

But let me first say Tiger is right to be hypnotised because it was a fantastic earthquake machine. It is the sort of earthquake machine that makes me proud to be British. Two bricks joined together by an elastic connector. The sort of stretchy connector you use to keep the boot of your car held down, so you aren't stopped by the police when you drive your old wardrobe to the dump.

But I know something that the guy explaining the tension and balance of the earthquake machine doesn't know. That Tiger will be building one of these the minute she arrives home. She has been experimenting trying to make unicorns fly for something like four years and I know for sure she is staring at that contraption and thinking balance and tension and forces and SPRING and CATAPULT and LANDING. So that is a horse-shape mythical being and Newtonian forces covered all at once, thank you very much.

Then I turn round and there is Squirrel. Now Squirrel does not move for two hours, except maybe to shuffle along the benches a little. Squirrel is copying down every bit of written information she possibly can about rocks. And fossils. And more rocks. And rocks.

Hello Squirrel! What are you doing?

I must write this down!

Do you want to come over to engineering and pilot a submarine?

No! I must write this down!

And that's what she did. Till the end of the day. All the pages of information that Squirrel did not manage to write down before the security staff made us leave the building on threat of prosecution I had to photograph to write out at home.

But I do not mind. Really. Because I turn to Squirrel and say, Squirrel, why do you need to write it all out? And she shouts in total urgency, like she might explode internally with the pressure of it, Because I want to be a geologist!

And that is possibly one very proud parent moment. Because now I know I was right to drag her over the Chilterns four years ago to listen to the geology group leader for two hours explain about lower, middle and upper chalk, while she complained that her feet hurt and all the time in the rain I forced her to wear a coat.


Deb said...

Hey, Shut up, you're going is my mantra, too. Also, Don't make me get out the duct tape.

Michelle said...

Oh that looks like a most excellent day!

(diarises for next year . . .)

darth sardonic said...

i use the universal "cause i said so!" quite a bit, and color it up by adding tidbits like, "cause i am bigger'n you." n other redneck nuggets of wisdom. but then, my youngest's favorite word is "why?"

on the other hand, your children sound very clever and dedicated. good job.

Frog in the Field said...

I think you do a fantastic job with your children, a very proud moment indeed.

MadameSmokinGun said...

Yeah...... I've been trying to 'negotiate' with mine. And I've been 'asking' them 'if' they 'want' to go to this or that. I've had to ring, text or collar people to beg if I can sell this child on that day or that child on this day so that I can take these two or that one to this thing. It is the twisted and soul-breaking path to total madness.

I'm going back to my old ways. The true path of SHUT UP YOU'RE GOING. It is not only easier but I now feel guilty that I HAVEN'T forced unwilling children into doing something they didn't want to do whereupon they may enjoy themselves (and god forbid 'learn' something) by accident.

What WAS I thinking?

sharon said...

Or you could try the 'Magical Mystery Tour' approach and just not tell them where you are going. I find that works well with my temporary charges as they nearly always want to go to the place you aren't going!

But, generally, shut up etc works well albeit with additional fighting/sulking.

Rachel M. said...

My dad took us to every flower garden he could find on every family vacation. We all cried (2 brothers and I) and behaved very badly. To our adult shame, we all love gardening and I find myself taking daughter to flower gardens. She's too young to throw a fit about where we go. I'm sure she will heap tons of it on my head in just revenge some day. Somewhere in the universe my dad is smug with self-righteousness, as he should be.

Grit said...

deb, that is better than 'or i will sell you for medical experiments' because we actually have duct tape.

combine it with a lovely time down south michelle!

hi darth! i would like to say my children are gifted, but i doubt it very much. they are ordinary, difficult, delightful, engaging and irritating, all at once. like most kids, i suspect.

hi frog! she has a long way to go for that yet. but better for me than the ballerina stage.

mme sg! i tried that taking apart the group bit to please everybody, when in reality you wear your feet off, crush your own heart and please nobody.

that would be cool, sharon. i wonder if i could get away with it. i shall try, and see what happens.

rachel, you make me feel just and right and all. thank you!