Our little house has been full of the delicious smell of my vegetable casserole bubbling away in the slow cooker today. I’m seriously not usually this organised but we have been housebound with a spotty toddler and I thought I might as well make good use of the time by cooking dinner and emptying the washing basket (it is good to remind myself that it isn’t bottomless once in a while). Besides, it was cook or watch Thomas the Tank on a loop whilst being dribbled on and frankly – although it certainly isn’t one of my favourite pastimes – in this case, cooking won.
H got home from school and was immediately his usual post-education in-ya-face whirlwind, which was refreshing after a day of quarrantine. One of the first things he said was “What is that horrible smell? I hope that isn’t our dinner as it smells disgusting”. Thanks, son.
Like most six year old boys, he is pretty vegetable phobic so I guess it makes sense that he wouldn’t be too keen on the smell. Luckily for him, the stew was for the grown-ups (and tasted pretty good actually). The kids had sausages and mash to eat, fling onto the floor with a large splat from M’s fork and, in Baby T’s case, wear. Much less disgusting, apparently.
It is that bluntness that only a child can get away with that made me smile. H didn’t mean to be offensive by declaring the smell of my cooking to be disgusting. I don’t think it even occurred to him that I cooked the dinner (well, chopped it up and stuffed it in a slow cooker) and that saying it smelt foul was rude. He just smelt it, disliked it and said it.
Both my six and almost four year olds, like most kids their age, are masters of self expression without a care for consequences. And always at volume. “Look at that funny man, Mummy. His hair looks really silly”. Cue embarrassed shuffling away as fast as I can with a pushchair and three small people in tow (really not fast at all).
Most memorable of these incidents was H spotting a lady with Dwarfism and saying loudly to an entire barber shop full of men “Wow! Look at that little girl! She looks really funny. Ha ha ha! Why is she outside without her Mummy?” There was to be no shuffling away – we were in a long queue – so this was followed by a painful conversation, all overheard by about ten guys and two stylists, in which I tried to explain the concept of growth defects and to a five and two year old, all while breastfeeding a nosy baby who kept popping up for air and leaving me somewhat exposed to all the aforementioned onlookers. That was my last attempt at a trip to the barbers with all three in tow.
H is on the verge of learning some social niceties now and understands that saying some things can be hurtful, even if not meant. It won’t be long before he is as conditioned and restrained in his speech as the rest of us.
Because we lose that ability to say what we think and to ask honest questions so young. This, obviously, is a good thing in many situations. Think of the offence and upset we’d cause otherwise. It would be unkind to tell the man in the post office that he has a huge nose or explain to the delivery man that he smells of old socks. But sometimes I would like to be able to be small again, say what I bloody well want to people for a day and get away with it.
Imagine being able to ask the question you really want to ask or say what you really think when having a heart to heart or a huge row with a loved one. Oh, the liberation! It would be so refreshing to screw the consequences and say exactly what I wanted.
One other thing I love about the honesty of kids is that when one of them says “I loved dinner” (extremely rare in this house, but it does happen) or “I like your dress”, you know they really, utterly mean it. It isn’t said to make you feel better or flatter you; they’ve not learnt how to do that yet. There are no processes in place between thought and speech: it is just a totally honest reaction. There is a lot to be said for that, in this world of insincerity and platitudes.
See it, say it. A rare thing indeed in adult life and one to be cherished in my offspring while it lasts, even if it does mean putting up with a few negative comments about my cooking.