We are driving to the airport.
My son, his wife and the Princess (my two-year-old granddaughter) are flying off for a family birthday and I have offered transport to the airport. It has been an unusual start to the day. I am at their home by seven, and while the parents are loading my car I am tugged to the sofa by Her Ladyship and instructed to read with (not to, please note) her. She is in an imperious mood. I see some butterflies on the page and remark “Flutterbies.”
Didactically (she gets this from her mother), and in a hurry to move on to the next page, she points to the coloured insects and says “Butterflies.”
On the next page there are more butterflies, dozens
of them. “More flutterbies,” I say. “Butterflies!,” she insists, and on
we go to the next page. Like one of the plagues of ancient Babylon there
they are again, swarms! “Will you look at all those flutterbies!” I
She sighs deeply, looks at me with a mixture of despair and pity: “Grandpa! Butt-er-flies!” I am in disgrace. She alights from the sofa and rides off across the room on her tricycle.
Now we are driving to the airport. Well my son is driving my car (he can have his share of the rush-hour traffic since, after all, I have to drive home again!) and his wife is in the front of the car with him. I am in the rear with the Princess, where her safety seat is installed. We are deeply into two-year-old stuff, looking at things out of the window, counting her toes, discussing why the dog couldn’t come with us, and just getting into the morning gridlock when out of the blue: “Mommy, I want pooh!”
Oh God, I think. What arrangements can people possibly make for mid-flight emergencies like this?
–Grandpa doesn’t have pooh in his car,” points out Mother. Damn right, I think, grateful for the back-up and admiring the zero-tolerance tone of her reply.
“But I want pooh!” repeats the Princess.
–It’s not available in this car.” says Mom, as though normally such a service is offered along with fast food and on-board internet access.
“Why can’t I have pooh in this car?” demands the aggrieved passenger.
“Because Grandpa doesn’t like it!” comes the reply. Couldn’t have put it better myself, I think, and hope this is the end of the situation.
But now, clearly, the blame has been skillfully passed on to me! Not only am I dreading the consequences of a leaking toddler in my back seat, not to mention my pre-existing dogbox status for not knowing how to say “butterflies.” but now I am on the receiving end of the coldest possible frown of disapproval. We sit there in a stand-off, to mix metaphors.
–I can have pooh in Mommy’s car.”
I am about to expostulate that Mommy can allow what she damn-well wants in her own car, but the limit’s the limit: there will be no pooh in my car “when Mommy intervenes:
–Even Daddy doesn’t have pooh in his car,” she begins. (Right on, I think.) “We only have the one Winnie the Pooh CD and it’s in Mommy’s car. Let’s see what CD Grandpa has in his car “” and she turns on my CD player. It is a Bach piano transcription.
“What’s this?” demands the child.
–It’s Bach, a partita,” explains mother (who is also a music teacher).
–I don’t like Boff titties,” says the Princess. “turn it off!”
Mommy turns it off.
An interrupted minor chord hangs unresolved “
The child turns and looks me sternly in the eye:
–Grandpa, count my toes again.”
This feature was first published in Relational Child & Youth Care Practice 20, 1. p.59