moreshortstuff

Life, kids etc.

The curse of the child genius, part 17

English: Internationell road signs in Kungsträ...

Road signs provide lots of fun for the young enthusiastic reader

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE BOLTON NEWS, FRIDAY 24 FEBRUARY 2012
MY little boy loves reading.
Since starting school in September he’s really taken to the way different letters make different sounds and how they can go together to form words.
Anything with letters on, he tries to read.
I suppose we should be encouraging this but the reality is, his attempts at reading anything and everything have become a curse.
We can no longer leave the paper lying around. He picks it up and asks what this or that headline means. And it is never the funny story about a cat playing the piano or something – it will be the cruellest bit of news imaginable. That means me having to fob him off with a made up version of world events.
Syria, for example, is not the home of a brutal regime massacring innocents – this is not a suitable story for four-year-old ears. Syria is instead the name of a girl at big school who has got into trouble for being naughty.
But the fobbing off is nowhere near as easy as it was a few months ago. Before, when he asked what something said, I was quite relaxed about feeding him a load of porkies. “ It says boys under five need to be in bed for 7 o clock tonight or the police will come and take them away,” I could idly threaten.
Now that power has been taken away from me. “No it doesn’t,” he will confidently say.
We went for a bit of a walk the other day but what should have taken half an hour dragged on and on. The reason? His insistence on reading aloud every sign we passed. Every sign. Who knew there were so many signs along Moss Bank Way?
Every 20 yards we stopped for five minutes while he slowly spelt out each direction or advertisement.
A Bovis Homes development was easy. The Bridge in Astley Bridge Cricket Club slightly tripped him up. But he had no problem with the zumba classes that are being held there. Asda and the vets were easy. But the brown sign pointing to Thornleigh Salesian College blew his tiny mind. “It’s pronounced ‘Thornleigh’ and is the name of the college,” I told him. “And a college is a school for older boys and girls.”
“What’s shall-eastern then,?” he asked. “Salesian…errr, it’s a type of Catholic,” I guessed.
“What’s a Kaffer-lick then?” he asked.
Explaining Catholicism to a four-year-old is one of the oddest and most difficult thing I have ever attempted to do – and I say that as the son of an Irish Catholic who went to a Catholic school, where teachers and Catholic priests regularly explained Catholicism to kids.
I did wonder about fobbing him off with lies but thought that might cause problems with his Irish grandmother somewhere down the line. In the end I settled for a hotch potch of basic Catholic doctrine with some Star Wars plot lines thrown in. I think it worked. Although later on I did catch him asking his mum why Jesus didn’t use his lightsaber on Judas.
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Oh, to be a man

English: Gents this way A nice bit of artwork ...

I’ve always wondered at what age the transition from boy to man happens. With the eldest child not yet five years of age, it’s safe to say puberty and eventual manhood are some way off.
Somebody ought to have told him that, though.
Picture the scene: we go for a traditional Sunday lunch at a local foody pub. It’s full of people of all ages tucking into roast beef and Yorkshire puds, with some of the more upwardly mobile couples sampling the delights of the specials board.
Dad has a pint of real ale – you know, for a change – and the place is just the right side of posh – the kind of place where you can just make out the faint hissing sound of mums and dads quietly, but threateningly, admonishing the kids for making too much noise.
One woman near us got up and moved to a table round the corner when our boys had the cheek to talk, albeit quite loudly. She must have never encountered children before, perhaps not even been one at some point in her life, bless.
When we did leave and walked past her new home I admit I had an inward chuckle at the fact she had jumped out of the frying pan and very much into the fire – the sort of family they make Channel 5 documentaries about (“Help – I can’t stop having kids!”) had set up camp all around her. She wept silently into her cream of celery soup. Ha!
Anyhow, back to the point – the food arrived so, naturally, Eli decided he needed the toilet and it fell to Dad to take him.
As we pushed through a big oak door, he read the sign aloud – “GENTS”. He pronounced it with a hard g – for “ggggreat “- at first. Then he asked: “Does that mean ‘gentlemen’?”
“It does, yes, clever lad.”
“So where is the ladies?”
“It’s at the other end of the pub. You have to walk down that long corridor,” I said, pointing into the distance.
“That’s well far,” he quickly worked out.
Then he paused for a minute. He slowly looked up at me and proudly declared: “I love being a man.”
I suppose we should really be worrying. In a few short years, he has already seen enough to know that the guys get the best deal in pretty much everything, even when it comes to pub toilets.

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