Is it just me? Am I the only one who feels rather excited (yet just a teeny, tiny, weeny bit guilty) at the thought of having lunch ‘sans children’? I, of course, do have company in the shape of my latest main character staring wide-eyed at me through my friendly and familiar computer screen, but I don’t mind him being there. He won’t ask me for a ham sandwich, to then tell me as it is presented to him (in a style to rival a Michelin-starred chef’s ham sandwich I might add – well sort of; there is a salad garnish on the side) that he no longer likes ham. He won’t say that he doesn’t need to go to the toilet just before lunch is ready, to then announce that he is desperate to empty his full bladder the very moment my own gourmet delight is about to touch my lips. He won’t knock his cup of water over, in my direction, in an effort to turn my lunch into a newfound, culinary amalgamation of bread, liquid and meat. He won’t ask me if he has eaten enough to get down from the table a hundred squillion times. He won’t talk through the worldly newsworthy events being broadcast on my favourite radio show.
To be honest, I love sharing meal times with my children (most of the time anyway), but sometimes…just sometimes…isn’t it wonderful to focus on your own needs and even eat chocolate without feeling like you’re on a secret mission? How does that happen? Trying to hide any evidence of eating the ‘naughty stuff’ from your parents, to becoming a parent and trying to hide any evidence of eating the ‘naughty stuff’ from your children? Talk about full circle!
So, here I am, able to think about what I would like for lunch and not what everybody else would like. How fabulously selfish and indulgent. Before children I would never have associated making lunch for myself with the word ‘indulgent’! I now equate the feeling to pre-parent days of spa treatments and exotic holidays! As I contemplate a variety of sandwich fillings, it occurs to me that thousands of other people, up and down the country, will also be eating a sandwich at this time. It also occurs to me that somehow we all accept that this food item is predominantly the standard choice for a meal at around this time of day. I wonder how that became to be. And why are toast and cereal, on the whole, reserved for just breakfast time? Why not have roast chicken and gravy for breakfast? I wonder if this were in fact the choice for most people for their first meal of the day, we wouldn’t question it or think it out of the ordinary?
It seems that so many expectations and ideas are conformed to because that’s ‘just what we do’. I have even realised it in my own parenting, where I have been guilty of thinking inside the box and not seeing the bigger picture. Being a mother of a boy and a girl, I have introduced my children to the obligatory blue/red dinosaur themed room for the former and the much expected pink hearts, flowers and butterfly themed room for the latter. However, as time has passed I now talk to my children about how I would like to see advertising that steers away from specific colours and toys for boys and girls. A colour is a colour. A toy is a toy. Who’s to say that they should belong to one group of people? Who made up such an absurd rule? I’d like a word! I tell my children ‘If you like it play with it, wear it, paint it, sing it, write about it!’
A book which I feel is successful and effective in giving this message of thinking beyond what society may subconsciously (and sometimes quite blatantly!) project upon us is ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.
Aside from the fact that it is a hugely entertaining and original story, producing many smiles and giggles from the outset, the crayons’ desire to be used for a purpose other than their obvious blue for seas or grey for elephants or red for Santas allows them to create a reality which they feel happy with (depicted in a wonderfully elaborate and unique picture at the end). I would like to think that my own children will feel that they have the ability to also conduct their lives in a way that is true to them, even if it isn’t the overriding message that society projects upon them.
I can even take a bit of humble pride in my own book ‘The Owl Who Lost Its Twoo’ doing its own small bit for challenging stereotypes.
I was delighted to hear from a teacher who after sharing the book with her class had a discussion with them about the colour of the main character’s tummy. The children thought, on first sight, that Ollie was actually a female owl due to his pink tummy. How fantastic that books can do their own important part to encourage children to explore their own thoughts and challenge preconceptions.
As I get ready to butter some bread (yes, I have decided on the sandwich for lunch) I vow to be more aware of how my days, and my children’s, can be filled in a way that isn’t always synonymous with what society suggests to be the ‘norm’. What is normal anyway? Isn’t life and society all the better when filled with all things varied and eclectic? Isn’t it a good idea to listen to our inner voice and recognise the things which fill us with contentment and happiness? And if that entails having roast chicken and peas for breakfast, then please do pass me the gravy!