While I coo at babies looking over their mum’s shoulder in shopping queues and risk questioning looks and/or sectioning, my sister does everything possible to avoid coming into contact with kids. We’ve always joked that we didn’t get a 50:50 split of the genes – it was a case of all or nothing. So I’ve got my mum’s gaga-ness over any and every child, whereas my sister is as baffled as my dad by this obsession with little people.
I have gone out of my way to work with children in the past: I’ve been a nursery attendant, a classroom assistant, and a swimming instructor. I spent more weekends between the ages of 15-18 in other people’s living rooms than my own, having managed to sell babysitting services to just about every young family within my postcode.
What I love most about kids is their total honesty. I think some parents would be horrified if they knew what their children repeat, rephrase, or just come out with on their own merit. If you ever want a straight answer, ask a child. They see things much more clearly than jaded teenagers and disillusioned adults, and aren’t worried about such trivial considerations as sparing your feelings/dignity/sense of self-importance.
I have been subjected to some painful observations and crushing remarks from the mouths of babes over the years. They are also freaking hilarious. Here are some of my favourite child-uttered truth-bombs:
Having never had to deal with many pimples during my teen years (I thought it was god’s way of making up for the fact that I was small and frizzy-haired with a high-pitched voice), I suddenly became prone to breakouts at 21. I managed to look in the mirror each morning and convince myself it wasn’t as bad as I suspected, and my friends told me the same.
One morning I went round to pick up the little boy I was dropping off at school. We were sitting eating breakfast and he came out with:
“Why have you got so many spots on your face? Don’t look at me! I don’t want to catch them.”
I was momentarily unable to respond, before I told him that wasn’t very nice to say and if he didn’t hurry up I’d dunk him in his cornflakes (said with love, obv). He was just being cheeky, but actually he told me what no one else had been willing to. So I booked a doctor’s appointment that afternoon, and found out I had developed adult acne. I then went to the hairdressers and asked for an emergency fringe cut to cover half my face. Thanks, little boy!
I also have what I’ve termed “Twilight Teeth”: basically fangs instead of incisors. Whenever I have pointed this out my dad has always responded, “no, no no! They’re supposed to be a bit pointy. Everyone’s are like that.” I remained unconvinced that mine aren’t gnash-ier than your average ivory tombstone.
This was confirmed when a young boy asked me, just as I was about to demonstrate how to dive, if I came from Hull.
I stood upright. “That’s an odd question,” I said, “why do you ask that?”
“Well,” he replied, “I know someone from there who also has really pointy teeth. Maybe it’s a northern thing. Are you from the north?”
I have spent many recent years becoming expert in all the latest video games for children under ten. Well, I would have, if the boy who likes playing Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean stopped freezing me out of the action. Apparently I have inflated belief in my own ability and am in fact “rubbish and slowing up progress”.
My feet have always been a source of amusement among some friends. It’s cool, though, when you can joke about stuff like that with your friends, right? …Right?
In their favour, it did help to prepare me for the day when a girl turned up with new goggles for her swimming lesson. She proceeded to spend most of the time going under water to examine my trotters, resurfacing just to try to explain how weird my toes are.
Then there was the girl who told me that while I was good at colouring in between the lines, I was nowhere near as good at drawing as her mummy. And my attempt at Hama-beading wasn’t very impressive, either.
Some children get really nervous about swimming on their back, which is understandable given that you’re asking a five-year old to trust that this clear, non-solid substance will hold them up. I get them to lie their head on my shoulder and look up at the ceiling, and have mastered some ingenious distractions to help them relax.
I then ask if they reckon the big grey pipe that runs under the roof is a spaceship, and whether they can see any aliens hiding inside.
The most frequent response is along the lines of “you’re so weird” and “no, it’s just a pipe”. Talk about not appreciating a true imaginative force. Kids can be so sassy.
Finally, in my experience, the one time a child is not telling the truth is when they claim to have stomach ache. Nine times out of ten they are just trying to get out of whatever fun activity you have set up for them.
But, there is the odd occasion when they are being genuine. Thus far I have yet to find a foolproof way to distinguish between these instances, and submit my jumpers that have been decorated with various regurgitated lunches as evidence. If anyone has this one sussed, me and my wardrobe would be ever so grateful for your wisdom.