For a while there when Mr Justice was just a wee tacker, he and I used to read “The Lorax” every night. Nothing made my heart gladder than Mr Justice’s little voice saying “Oh, baby, oh! How my business did grow!” – and not because I necessarily want him to become an entrepreneurial type, I hasten to add. Should he ever come to me with a fool-proof get-rich-quick scheme that will make him millions, I’ll simply hand him two bucks and tell him to buy a scratchie instead because, to me, it’s the same-bloody-diff. Anyhoo, I loved to hear his little voice saying that line because it was just so damn cute.
My husband, who can literally fall asleep mid-sentence during book time, deliberately chooses the shortest books he can get away with. For a long time, his book of choice was “Pocohontas in the forest”, a board book which, with only four (short) pages, meant that he could fulfill any legal obligations he might have to read a book to his kids in one minute flat. “The Lorax” in comparison, is for parents with a bit more stamina (such as myself) – at 1552 words, it pisses on “Pocahontas in the forest” from a great height – plus it has an underlying environmental message to boot (unlike “Pocahontas in the forest”, but only because it’s pretty hard to explore too many complex themes in a four-line rhyme written for under 5′s).
In any case, I’m sure many people would agree that the environmental messages of “The Lorax” are more relevant than ever these-a-days. “Teach ‘em early”, I always say. And shortly after that, I usually say something really humble like “No, no, don’t thank me for paving the way to future with awareness and tolerance. It’s all in a day’s work here at Not Drowning Mothering Central.” At least I used to say that until that fateful day when Mr Justice pointed at a super-axe-hacker chopping down numerous Truffala trees in one smacker and said “I want one of those when I’m big”.
Now let’s jump forward a few years later when Mr Justice announced he wanted a vegetarian meal for dinner but was surprised, upon further discussion, to discover that there wasn’t going to be any meat in it.
But vegetarians don’t eat meat, I explained.
“Okay,” he said. “I want a vegetarian meal but with some meat too.”
Uh, okay. It’s vegetarians like him that give the rest a bad name. No wonder there’s still people out there who still think a vegetarian diet includes fish and chicken. I once shared a house with a man who had been a ‘fruitarian’ – which pretty much means eating stuff straight from the tree without cooking or chopping or even probably chewing it. Over time, his diet evolved so that he basically subsisted on oranges, chocolate and coffee. Apparently, there was a brief period where this extensive diet had included those Tic Toc biscuits with clock faces on them, but he had eventually deemed them too unhealthy. Again: uh, okay.
Anyway, it’s interesting to note that my husband and I differ in the way we choose books at bedtime in the same way we differ in our method of saying “No” to the kids. My husband goes for the band-aid approach and simply says “No” – briefly painful but everyone is quickly able to move on with their lives. Whereas I can’t help but get myself entrenched in lengthy discussions about the underlying whats, whys and whiches. Of course these discussions can drag on for days and, worse still, it doesn’t matter how well I try to explain things, my children always have this admirable ability to dodge the point entirely, according to their own agendas.
Nothing demonstrates this better than the other day when Mr Justice bit The Pixie, an act which gets the zero tolerance treatment in our household. After he’d served his time on the Thinking Spot, we had a little talk about why he had done it. His explanation was that he had bitten her because was trying to scratch him, which is also an act which is Frowned Upon Most Severely in our household.
“If she tries to scratch you, you just walk away. Then you look good,” I explained. ”But if she tries to scratch you and you bite her, you look even worse than she does.”
At which point, The Pixie, who was skipping around cheerfully in the background during all this, piped up: “I’m looking good, aren’t I mummy?”