Monday, February 28, 2011


I realised the other day, when a friend came over and we all started drawing, that we approach drawing very differently. Neither Linnea nor Emer have the slightest serious interest in drawing what they see; they will sit down with me to sketch something but draw something totally different, or draw a version of what's there but not the actual thing - a bowl of bananas instead of a bowl of apples, for example, or (as this morning) a portrait of me standing up when I was actually lying down, coughing vilely, throughout the whole "sitting."

I did gently suggest once or twice that they try to draw what was in front of them but they met my suggestion with derision and scorn and other flattering things like that.

Their drawings do still develop and progress, in spite of this. Presumably they know something I don't know. I'm going to do that butting-out thing again.


I can't help but feel we ought to know what these are but Emer is four and she was delighted that they came up and she could remember planting them. It's time to plant all sorts of things now. As soon as we're all over our bug, I'll break out the compost, flowerpots etc. We have plenty of seeds.

Edit: I thought they were crocuses but then doubted myself terribly. Now I think they might be again. Hm.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Five things I want my children to know (about me?)

1 I love you. I'm lousy at showing it sometimes, and I screw up, and I am not always as kind as I ought to be, and sometimes you think I want you to be unhappy, but that is because I sometimes fail at mothering, and I do, really, love you so much that sometimes I might explode or spontaneously turn into a flying unicorn from the sheer awesomeness of you.

2 My failures are not your fault. When you are older, like about forty, I will tell you more about the things in my life that led to some of my failures, but for now, let me make clear that although a hell of a lot of them are not my fault (truly, not my fault), they are even more not your fault.

3 I am sorry for failing you. I try not to.

4 I sometimes feel like I have lived several lives in one. I want to make sure to sit you down at some point and tell you all about at least six of them - the rural living, the inner-city living, waiting on tables and publishing and IT and cottage industry. I want to take you to where I met archaeology and fresh fish and make absolutely certain you never, ever find out I climbed the cliffs I climbed, because that was incredibly stupid. Maybe I can tell you about some of my friends and partners too. I am so deeply moved that you are all three witnesses to my discovery of painting that I can't possibly explain it because I'll get tearstains all over the internet.

5 I want you to know that I have been incredibly stupid and reckless in my life and some of my stupidities have led to wonderful, life-enhancing, glorious things, and some haven't. (And in case that seems ambiguous, let me add that I have never, ever become pregnant by accident, so don't worry that you weren't wanted, even if you're reading this because you think nobody will ever understand you and everyone hates you. I am thrilled to have you in my life, and I congratulate myself on my brilliance for making you pretty regularly). So sometimes it's worth doing silly things, especially if they're funny or involve really lovely people or good food, but it's always good to make sure you have somewhere to live and enough to eat first. And making small mistakes can help to avoid big ones.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Puncturing dreams and dissing illusions

This evening I spoiled everything for Linnea - erased the last hope from her life, dooming her to eternal despair.

I finally got her to believe that even grownups without children can't do whatever they want all the time.

She was slightly mollified when I explained that we do things we don't want mainly so that we can do things we do want, like work in boring jobs so that we can have nice houses, or spend ages cleaning the kitchen and cooking so we can eat fabulous food, or (pertinently) go to bed before we want to so that we can do what we want the following day.

But only slightly.

Emer was in bed and lying down as soon as I agreed to pretend she was asleep while I brushed her teeth. Hum.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chapter Book

Linnea is writing one - no text, just pictures. It's difficult not to interfere with what she thinks chapters are for. When she adds the text, later, I'm sure it will all be clearer.

Meanwhile, this is me not interfering.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Eye scream by Linnea

Note twist in optic nerve.


I've been feeling like a total failure. I've been ill for ages, with one thing or another, and I have a day or two of reasonable wellness and then crash again. My school-age children don't seem to have noticed, and in fact if I think about what they are doing it's obvious they are learning a good deal, but I feel that I should be doing more with them and for them.

I can't work out how to get started again, where to find motivation and energy. Perhaps I need to start taking a multivitamin.

Friday, February 04, 2011

It's working

Linnea spent ages reading to Emer today. Then Emer played a game on my phone and read the words she knew to me. And one of their games today involved multiplication.

They also played a complicated game about the life cycle of birds (species unspecified) and did a lot of drawing.

But let's not mention the running. And running. And running. Not outdoors, oh no, they wouldn't want to do that. Up and down the upstairs landing. For hours. Well, over an hour. They must have run a mile, in 10-foot sections.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Vocabulary and idiolect

The other day we were on a bus with a friend, and Linnea mentioned another bus journey on which she had felt a bit sick. "I was bus-sick," she said. "Yes," I said, "but you didn't get sick, did you?"

"No," she said, "I was bus-ill."

And today Emer fell slightly when going upstairs and said "Oops, I had a little tumble."

Neither "ill" nor "tumble" were in my childhood vocabulary at all. I consciously adopted "ill" when I was nine, but didn't use it much - it wasn't a word in common use in my circles, and sounded faintly wannabe-posh, in the same way that children in 1950s Cork didn't say "mud," they said "mire" but that would sound trying-too-hard for most children I know now.

"Aren't I" instead of "amn't I," too. Unvoiced R sounds. It is interesting, having children whose language is so different from my own, in spite of being the same one.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Talking about death with my *other* daughter

"We're not the kind of people who are going to die ever, are we," she said confidently.

My insides clenched up, because the first child I had to discuss all this with found it impossible to either accept or ignore, and cried for hours at a time for ages. Sobbed, or wept quietly, in wretched, devastating anguish. It was horrible.

However. "Yes," I said, "We're going to die, someday, a long time away. Everything dies."


"I don't know, but everything does."

"But then where will all the people be?"

"There'll be new people, because people always have babies, don't they?"

"But they won't have any parents!"

I think she's envisioning some sort of mass extinction event.

So I started with my grandmother, and when my mother was a baby, and then on to when I was a young grownup, and my grandmother died, and how when our baby is grown up their Nana will die too. Luckily, the baby sister being a grownup seems unbelievably distant to this four-year-old. So she said "We are all going to die?"

Her lips wobbled and her chin puckered and she looked not very happy.

"Yes. But not for a long time."

"Even me? But it's not for yages and yages, right?"

"That's right, not for ages."

So that was all right then. She perked up, dismissed it from her mind, and carried on.

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