Sunday, June 29, 2008
The Vegetable Garden
Guest Column by Mushroom
Three kids: Cabbage, Turnip and Spuds. These are just three nicknames I gave them over the (nearly) four years I’ve been working with this children, and they’ve had many, many more. In our society it’s a sign of how fond you are of someone if they have a lot of nicknames. The aforementioned three vegetable names are just the ones I use the most.
Cabbage is almost eleven, going on fifteen. He’s a very intelligent little boy and, as with most intelligent people, it brings him more than his fair share of misery. He doesn’t get on well with the other children in his school, besides his also intelligent best friend, because he can’t relate to them. His pet topic right now is famous classical composers; theirs is Linkin Park and Fergie. He’s perked up considerably though lately because he’s going to a special camp for gifted children, where he’s going to study law. We’ve started a new game which involves comparing classical music to modern-day equivalents. (Mozart was Kanye West, Stravinsky was Slipknot, and so on.)
Turnip is a classic middle child. He’s eight going on five and he still sucks his thumb and has a security blanket. As a middle child myself I know that we never really outgrow certain habits (I still sleep with my stuffed dog and I’m twenty-five!) so I’m not worried. He’s very popular at school and he’s usually well-behaved, but like all children he has his moments. (He and Cabbage don’t get on well; Cabbage calls him names and Turnip, being the same size and about the same weight, punches him until I step in and give out stink to them both.) He’s fussy about food but only when he can get away with it (as in, when his mother’s home.)
Spuds is the baby (at least, he was when I started. He’s nearly four now!) and, given the others were school-aged when I started, the one who’s been influenced by me the most. I’m from a different part of the country than the family and I came with my own mannerisms and catchphrases and quirks, some of which I passed on to Spuds. The other day, he told his mother he had ‘a cut of the runs’ (the phrase is actually ‘a touch of the runs’) and greeted Turnip by saying ‘Hey! It’s that Turnip guy we know!’ (I’m always doing that.)
One day, as we were walking back from the school run to catch the bus, we spotted the bus before we had reached the stop. We were just about at the stop but the bus not only drove past us, but drove at high speed through a massive puddle (it was raining by the way) and drenched me in muddy water. Forgetting I had an impressionable toddler with me, I called the driver a f*****g w****r. I got the next bus, dropped Spuds to school, went back to his house to housework and picked him up a few hours later. As we were walking home, he spotted a bus driving towards us and he said to me ‘Hey, it’s that f*****g w****r!’ I managed to get him to stop saying it by the time his Mom got home. I hope.
This week sees the kids looking forward to the end of school for the summer, and me dreading it. This is my third summer with them and I’m trying to think of things we can do. My hands are tied because I don’t drive, we take the bus everywhere, or we walk. Cabbage wants to stay in his room all summer working on his models and tinkering with the piano, so going anywhere is going to put his nose severely out of joint. We’ve been to the Natural History Museum so many times we know all the animals off by heart, and the last time we visited the National Museum Spuds got scared by the mummies and screamed for the whole trip. Only Cabbage likes the Art Gallery and he hated the Interactive Play Centre and I’ll be shot out of a cannon before we go back to the Shopping Centre. I’d like to bring them to the beach but the train and buses take too long to go there and back, and I need a car to get to the zoo.
At home, I’ve got art projects, treasure hunts and rainy-day DVDs lined up, but past experience has taught me that these only last so long. At least the family are going on holiday abroad, which gives me two whole weeks to think of something new and exciting to do with them. Or maybe I could build them a pen in the backyard and let them run free, as nature intended. (Free-range children-good idea?)