Monday, 5 October 2015

Letter to a Granddaughter: Butterfly in Pyjamas.

Dear Small Granddaughter,
Here you are in essential morning style, pyjamas and butterfly wings, flitting around as I prepare your breakfast. You alight at the dolls' house and do a quick rearrangement. The tiny plastic baby is meant to be cared for by a little fat pig and a small red bear. You comment on the fact that the bear and the pig have been drinking wine. The empty bottle is on the floor of the miniature sitting room and the baby is alone in his nursery. You fit him into his high chair and remonstrate with the pig and the bear... "This baby is hungry. He hasn't got a nappy. You are not looking after him.....come on, baby, I'll look after you."
I call from the kitchen, "Would you like porridge?" 
"I don't know," you say. "I'm too busy now."
The porridge will keep warm until the baby is sorted and the empty glasses and bottle tidied, but then, suddenly you are in the kitchen, jumping up and down, wings quivering. "Porridge, please, and some toast and marmite, and....what's that?"
"It's a nectarine."
"I can jump very high. Can you hear me jumping?"
"Oh, yes. I can hear you. Would you like a nectarine as well?"
"I can jump just like Mr. Jeremy Fisher. Look!"
"What about the nectarine?"
"Can you jump like Mr. Jeremy Fisher? Can you jump as high as me? Can you?"
"Not now, but I probably could when I was nearly three."
"When were you nearly three?"
"A very long time ago."
What a good question, but I choose to ignore it because 'why?' is the  standard response to so many things these days. We will concentrate on porridge instead. And the nectarine.

In three weeks time you will be three. How amazing is that? That little fragile bundle who studied her moving hands with rapt attention is now bursting with opinions and thoughts, and can dance and sing and jump like Mr. Jeremy Fisher (although this is an ambitious concept as you've been watching The Royal Ballet: Tales of Beatrix Potter)

You love books and are frustrated by not being able to read just yet.
"Tell me the words," you say, pointing to the pages, and then, "Now tell me the words in your head," meaning, make up a story. Such an enjoyable difference between words on the page and words in the head, and I find myself thinking the same thing: "Tell me the words in your head, Little E."

You have travelled by air and paddled in Portugal, eaten French ice-cream and slept in tents and yurts. You have made new friends and learned to share and play. You like to be kind to others. Sadly it is becoming rather obvious that I have slowed down a lot and you take my hand and do your best to help me. I find this most powerfully touching. You are becoming an experienced, lovely little person.

You need to make sense of the world, and your way to do it is to act it all out:  You say, "You be me and I'll be you. Now, do you want porridge?" and "Daddy, you be Mr. Jeremy Fisher, and I'll be the big trout"
"Mummy, you be Daddy and Daddy can be Annie" (Granny). Challenging for all of us. Do I really ask everyone about porridge all the time? You give us all such food for thought.

Of course, it's not all sunshine. Storm clouds gather when you are hungry or tired. You refuse to eat or drink or have a cuddle, and you may lie on the floor in noisy protest. You are not like your father in this. He went in for much quieter negative protest, but then would have to shout out, "Look at ME! I'm sulking!" But you are finding a way out of the big holes you sometimes dig for yourself. After refusing everything you may revive, smiling and say, "I've had a good idea. Let's share!" (whatever it was you'd just been refusing.). Good idea. Charm trumps tantrum. A useful lesson for life, and a difficult one to maintain, especially when you're nearly three.

But charm or tantrum, I hope you'll always be able to tell me the words in your head, Little E.

With love from Annie.


Ali Honey said...

That's so delightful.

Zhoen said...

Oh, and so many books to read. And jumps to jump. And bears and pigs and babies to tend to.

I haven't patience with young children, not knowing how it felt to have an adult be so with me. I feel the lack, the hole where a whole belongs. So, I offer books and shout encouragement from the shore for those who can.

Like Olivia,

And The Princess and the Pony,

Jenny Woolf said...

What a lovely portrayal of a dear little girl at this truly lovely age. Your description also reminds me of my older daughter who was full of enthusiasm (and would always dress up in anything going and never stopped pretending and talking. (Wings - fab!!)
I bet she'll enjoy reading these posts when she is older, so I hope you are saving them somewhere in hard copy. I know that's supposed to be old fashioned but at least paper doesn't rely on technology in order to survive.

Elephant's Child said...

Misty-eyed here.
This is truly lovely.
Thank you.
And I do hope she enjoyed the nectarine in the fullness of time - one of my favourite fruits.

Relatively Retiring said...

Ali: thank you for reading and commenting.
Zhoen: many thanks for the book suggestions and encouragement.
Jenny: I really want her to have these letters when she is older, so I probably will organise hard copy at some point.
E.C.: thank you. The nectarine went down well (peaches are too hairy!) and the stone was duly planted in the garden.

Jee said...

It's a great age this nearly Three. Birthday preparations well in hand here - we are commanded to arrive very early and have sausages for breakfast instead of tea and birthday cake! Ballet trip went well. Lovely to see you last week.

Molly Bon said...

What a lovely letter for a sweet butterfly. And how lucky she is to you as her grandma!

Molly Bon said...


Marigold Jam said...

Lovely letter and beautiful litte butterfly. I think there must be a special relationship between little girls and their grandmothers I know my daughter used to have one with my mother (sadly I didn't have a grandmother so can't say if it is general) I think perhaps little girls are more vocal in their complaints than boys or so it would seem when speaking with friends who had boys and not girls. I am sure the buttlerfly would love the letters in later years and making them into a sort of book with photos and funny sayings that she comes out with etc would leave her a lovely legacy..

Relatively Retiring said...

Jee: It's magical, isn't it? So glad the ballet was appreciated. It's tutus at dawn now!
We can get them to put on their own show soon, although I think E. will want to be Mr. Jeremy Fisher, and F will be a swan. Could work though?

Molly Bon: I think I'm the lucky one. Just wish I was 20 years younger.

Marigold: I think little girls are often more sophisticated and subtle linguistically. My sons were very vocal but not always subtle.
I've been able to give both sons a record of their very early years because I kept detailed daily diaries until they started school. They have appreciated this sort of personal history, and I illustrated both books with photos they hadn't seen before. A lot of work, but enjoyable for all of us.