Thursday 13 November 2008

There's something (unpleasant) about Mary..

Dinner time. Neve is singing at the table, throwing her head back as she does so, so she can gargle her chicken and rice between verses. Unless forcibly restrained she will also bang out an accompanying rhythm on the table with her spoon. The noise is loud, bordering on being offensively so, though I notice with a trace of sadness that at 2 years and 2 months of age she can already keep in tune far, far better than I can (As my grandfather once pithily observed: "I wish you wouldn't sing out loud, you couldn't carry a tune in a bucket...")
"That's very musical, sweetheart" I say, "But you need to be quiet and eat your dinner".
"Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb!" she sings, oblivious.
"LITTLE LAMB!" confirms her sister, clearing up any lingering doubts I may have harboured about Mary's farmyard animal of choice.
"We got a new songbook out of the library, full of nursery rhymes to play on the piano..." explains Nini (and yes, that is a strong contender for the single most middle-class statement in the world, ever - though it just misses out on being a clear winner by not referring to carrying the book home in a recycled plastic bag)
"Fleece was white as snow...."
"...and Nevie is very taken with 'Mary had a little lamb'" Nini adds, somewhat unnecessarily.
"Yes. So I can hear."
"Mary had a little LAMB, little LAMB...."
"I think that's enough, Nevie."
Nevie clearly doesn't agree, because she slips off her chair, steps across to the piano, and begins to hammer away at the keys, in the manner of a jazz scat musician who is so into the groove they just gotta lay down a few bars, and just see where this jam takes us...
For a second, I am so perplexed that I don't know how to react. Obviously, on the one hand I'm thrilled she wants to develop her musical skills (so that later I can milk her talent as an international singer/songwriter by insisting I act as her manager) - but on the other, the noise is God-awful. And after all, at the dinner table rules is rules.
"Sit back at the table, Nevie" I insist. "No freestyling nursery rhymes on the piano during dinner".
She sullenly takes her seat. A moment of quiet descends, which her sister takes as her cue to add to proceedings.
"Mary did not have a little lamb..." she announces, portentously.
A pause. I wait, fork loaded with chicken and halfway to my mouth.
"She had... a little poo."
"YES!" shrieks her sister, delighted, thumping the table.
I put the fork back down.
I should explain: Amelie has reached that phase where she thinks bodily functions are funny. This is particularly difficult for me, because I do too, and half of the time I struggling not to laugh. Telling her off is difficult, as I am painfully aware that the only thing stopping her calling me out on my hypocrisy is that she has no clue about the concept - yet.
"No talking about poo at the dinner table" I say lamely, realising as I say it that qualifying the sentence with 'at the table' tacitly legitimises discussion of poo at all other times. Not that it matters, there is no stopping them now:
"Mary had a little poo..." they chorus, gleefully.
"Girls, stop..." I command.
"..little poo, LITTLE POO..."
I look at their mother. She is doing that thing she does whereby if she looks vacantly at the wall for long enough, she can tune everything else out.
"Mary had a little poo..."
"I said stop!"
"It's fleece was brown as poo!"
They dissolve into giggles. I feel I have lost control, and must regain the situation.
"That was a silly song", I announce, and I am unable to stop my inner pedant from adding: "Poo does not have fleece of any colour."
Nine comes out of her reverie in time to give me a special look that clearly says: yes, nice work, that was the main issue there - so glad you clarified that for them..
"Poo!" shouts Neve, vibrating with excitement. "Poo! Poooooo!"
"I think, " says Nini, ever the master of the diversionary tactic. "That we should sing Daddy a different song. Why don't you choose a song we all know, Amelie, and we'll join in?"
Amelie stops to think. An expectant calm descends, she is clearly choosing carefully. Finally she begins:
"Old Macdonald had a poo..."


Misterimpatient said...

I have to say Paul, in my home, anything that gets the teenager to speak is acceptable dinner conversation. Poo would be welcome, just not on the plate. Singing too, just not the banging.

Restaurants are different. Always wear a disguise when eating out.

Welcome back!

Anonymous said...

it was a pleasure to witness the pooh songs first hand!!