Monday 29 October 2007

Daddy fights the fear...

Well, the clocks have gone back. For a large portion of the UK population I guess this was good news, as it basically meant an extra hour in bed on Sunday. Technically I suppose that it also meant an extra hour in bed for us as well, but seeing as Neve was wide awake and howling like a faulty air-raid siren throughout, it actually felt much, much longer...
In the vain hope they would sleep for the extra hour, we had tried to keep the girls up a bit later the night before. This meant that they both watched 'Strictly Come Dancing' with their grandparents, which proved to be perhaps a less calming, more interactive experience than we'd usually prefer them to have at bedtime. Both girls 'danced' their own interpretation each time the music started: Neves style was to stamp rythmically round in circles, occasionally running at things (people, furniture, walls) shrieking, whereas Amelie took it more seriously, demanding that each of us in turn would 'be the man' and dance with her (well, hold her hand while she span and bounced - when my daughters dance, it ends in injury a worryingly high percentage of the time..)
This process revealled hidden aspects of my father-in-law I had never suspected before. I think it best to gloss over his dancing style, which was more reminiscent of King Louis from the 'Jungle Book' than Fred Astaire, but his in-depth ballroom knowledge was surprising ("Shall we risk upsetting the judges and go for that third lift, Amelie?") as was the fact that the show was clearly on his mind all night afterwards - during a lull in conversation many hours later, he suddenly announced, apropros of nothing, that he thought that one of the judges had been "mistaken to have awarded a ten for that Samba". It's just not what I had expected from a man who greeted me in a broad Rochdale accent on Thursday with the line "I've brought my pickaxe for t'garden." We shall have to see about getting him sequinned gardening gloves for Christmas...
But I digress. The clocks have gone back, which meant it got darker earlier - which meant for the first time that Amelie could remember, she and Mummy had to walk home from her friends house in the dark. This proved problematic, because Amelie was scared of 'bears and wolves', presumably lurking in the shadows of all the parked 4x4s on the fringes of the Waitrose car park. Nini had to have a reassuring conversation with her about being scared, which was then explained to me by the pair of them at bedtime:
Nini: " I have explained that there is nothing to worry about, and than its OK to be scared sometimes, and that Mummy and Daddy will give her a cuddle and it will be all right."
Amelie: "...and it is silly to be scared of lots of things, but even Mummys and Daddy are scared of some things."
Paul: "Uh huh. And what things are you scared of, Ami?"
A: "The dark. And dogs. And spiders. And some other things."
P: "What other things?"
A: (clearly listing things at random, and looking round the room for inspiration)"Um...horrible dolls."
P: "I see. Well, I like the dark, but I didn't like dogs when I was little, either."
A: "And are you scared of them now?"
P: "No."
A: "So we don't have to call Grandad?"
There is a pause. I look confused. Nini clears her throat nervously, which is a sound I have learned to equate with impending bad news.
N: "Um, I should perhaps just explain: I have told Amelie that when Mummy is scared, Daddy can give her a hug, because Daddys can make things better..."
(I nod encouragingly: this all makes me sound very good.)
N: "...but then she asked who could help Daddy not feel scared, and I said that maybe your Daddy would do that..."
(I immediately stop nodding. Nini stops talking but continues to cringe. I glance at my daughter, who is looking at me wide-eyed and trusting)
P: "I see. And you thought that was for the best?"
N: "I can't, in all honesty, say that I really thought about it at all..."
P: (hissing) "Really? Because you know, it doesn't show..."
A: "So when you get scared, Daddy, you can call Grandad and ask for a hug, and he will make you all brave again!"
N: (nodding brightly, and wearing her best 'play along' look) "Yes, that's right!"
P: (unhappily) "I am 36, Nini. My father is 61..."
A: "You can still phone him, Daddy! When you are scared!"
P: "Yes. Right.....thanks..."
A: "Did you have to call him today? When it got dark?"
P: "What? No!"
A: "It's OK to be scared, Daddy. Mummy said so."

Sadly, this one is going to run and run. We played a little Nintendo together later, and as ever I was giving her a running commentary on what was happening:
P: "Ooooh, look Amelie, it's the end-of-level monster! We will have to beat him to get past..."
A: (gripping my arm) "Are you scared, Daddy? Shall we phone Grandad?"