I have a darling little demon on the end of each hand, each one skipping along to their own tune. We we’re going to Tūranga – on the bus! And there will likely be treats, too. Grand-aunties who have lived a child-free life are useless at saying “no”. They know this, like they know apples fall to the ground.
This was our first pre-planned big day out together. Very exciting! Their new sensible black school shoes, just bought by their mum that very morning, were an exquisite contrast to their pink leggings, sparkly tee-shirts, and the fairy dress worn by one of the darling demons. New shoes just have to be worn immediately, after all, even school shoes. When the big orange bus came into sight, the excitement ratcheted up. More followed when they got to sit in the high front seat, where they could see everything.
My sister’s daughter unexpectedly produced three children from two pregnancies, and I am a grand-auntie to five-year-old twin girls, and their eight-year-old brother. Every so often, I do the ‘nice auntie’ thing, and take them somewhere. Not all together, if I’m in sole charge – that would be fairly mental, considering my limited child-management skills. I split them up, and today was the first really big day out for just me and the twins.
Top of the agenda was a trip to Tūranga – Christchurch’s new central library, finished a year ago after the old building got munted in the earthquake of Feb 2011, and it had to be re-located into two different buildings in the meantime. Yep, that’s the kind of serious auntie I am – I take kids to the library. First stop was the library café, where they had cakes for lunch. The seriousness seldom survives the first onslaught of pleading from the darling demons. I’d have to say, that it’s rather fascinating how much cake can get onto little faces and hands, even when using a fork. I also had to admire the total devastation that was wrought upon top of the café table, by the time we departed. From time to time I had wondered, in my superior child-free way, why people with kids leave the table looking like such a bomb-site. Now I know. These darling demons might be little, but they know how to leave their mark.
A compulsory wash of face and hands – the necessity of which was questioned, of course – and then we went up to the children’s section on the first floor. The books, which they actually enjoy reading at any other time, got scarcely a glance as the darling demons headed straight for the play area. I mean, did I really think they were going to look at books, when there was a new exciting play area to explore? Nah, not really. Even I knew that. I just want books to be important to them, and they are. But play areas are more important.
So, there’s this big thing in the play area, which is like an upright tunnel/funnel, and the kids can play in, around, and up it. Soon, a boy a little older than the others, somehow got designated as ‘the monster’, and it was his job to scare the others, especially the girls, of course. If the squealing was anything to go by, he was doing a good job.
Then I heard him try and pass the ‘monster’ job onto – shock – a girl. No way were the girls having that. He got told in no uncertain terms that he was the monster. Maybe there were boys amongst them, too, but it was the girls voices I heard. I felt a bit sad for the ‘monster’ boy that, due to his sex and age, he couldn’t escape being the monster. Boys scare girls, not the other way around. That’s just how it goes. Being the outcast and hated monster is not a nice place to be, so I can understand that he wanted to offload it after a while. But being a monster is not what a girl does, when there is a boy around to do it. Especially an older boy.
The moment passed quickly, but it stuck with me. I would like to have had the presence of mind to say to them that boys don’t always want to be monsters, and that it’s okay for girls to be monsters, too, when they’re playing. I expect I would have got a blank look. Already they know that boys take on the mean and nasty roles.
My darling little demons are not wilting violets. They are strong and obstreperous, and I love that about them. I hope that they grow up to be strong and obstreperous women, too. But one day soon, I will find the right moment to tell them that boys don’t always want to be monsters, and it’s okay for girls to sometimes be the monster and roar and scare people. Actually, they’re already not too bad with the ‘roar’ part at times. It might not be all that much of a stretch for them, after all 🙂