Monday, 14 January 2008

Mummy School

"Did you go to school when you were younger?" The Girl asked the other day. Feeling mildly put-out that she couldn't immediately tell I'd been educated to degree level, I laughed and said:

"What, Mummy School?"
"Yes," she said, deadpan.
"Well, no. There isn't a school for mummies. You just have to get on with it. But I did go to real school."
"Oh." She looked disappointed. "That's a shame. You should go to Mummy School."

That night I was reading Goodbye Mog to her, which I'd bought last year when our old cat disappeared and never came back, because The Girl kept insisting that we 'mustn't give up' and short of yelling 'He's worm food! Deal with it!' I couldn't think of a better way of explaining it. We've only read it a couple of times since. Thank god. (No offence to the wonderful Judith Kerr, but hell it's depressing.) The last time we'd read it, The Girl had asked: "Will I ever die, Mum?" I'd panicked and said "No," and then fretted over the possible consequences of such a lie. So this time when she asked (obviously not convinced by my first response) - not that I'd been formulating a better answer in the meantime, which I'm still cursing myself over - I said, quite breezily, "Yes, one day you will."

She was horrified. Not in a screaming around the room way, but in a sit-there-quietly-really-taking-it-in way.
"But I don't want to die," she said. I wanted to grab her and say "I was only joking!!" But it was too late. She wanted to know if I was going to die, and on what day she'd die, and what would happen afterwards . . . It was a nightmare. I managed to soothe her (yeah right) and she hasn't mentioned it since. Which could mean it's eating away at her innocent little insides and she'll turn into a mass murderer.

The Australian was no comfort. I explained the whole thing, thinking that a harsh realist such as he is would appreciate my honesty towards our inquisitive child, but he just looked crushed on her behalf and very helpfully shrugged when I asked him what he would have said in my position.
"But I couldn't lie to her!" I wailed. 

This afternoon, I have finally proved to myself that I am not fit to look after small people. Spot the contradiction:
"Mum, I think I'd like to go to space."
"Right. How will we do that?"
"We just need to get a rocket. And some silver space suits. Even a really tiny one for my brother."
"Where do we get those?"
"Um, the space rocket shop of course."
"OK. But how much does a rocket cost?"
"I think about eight."
"Fine. Are you sure children can go to space?"
"Oh yes, I think so."
"OK then." At which point we arrived at the library and she ran off to socialise while I stood there kicking myself and wondering why I'd found it perfectly acceptable to let her believe that we could fly to the moon but I couldn't let her believe that she was never going to die.

Still, at least I haven't ruined her appetite for travel.

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writer girl said...

Prepare yourself: this one will run and run. I feel for you though. And if it's any consolation I LOVE your blog. WG

Ross said...

I think if there were a Mummy School, one of the tenets would be "don't lie about the big things". Congratulations for having the courage.

Mum'sTheWord said...

Thanks, WG! That makes me happy.

Ross, didn't you give me a book about lying to children? :) Hehe. There are still so many myths to dispel - she still thinks her dad is the best juggler in the world . . . he can 'just about' manage three balls.