My conversations with Eliza remind me every day that there is real wonder and beautiful innocence in being 5. At the moment she’s very interested in my childhood so we have isolated random conversations about that.
As I was stroking her hair tonight after her stories, she asked me,
“Mummy what did you do when you were 5?” Goodness where to start?
“Well I did lots of things darling, er I went to school…”
“Did you play ‘it’?”
“Yes we played ‘it’ and we played stuck and the mud, and sometimes we played kiss chase.”
“It’s where the boys chase the girls and try and kiss them.” I realised that it sounded slightly wrong, did we really play that?
“Eughhhh!!!” The thought was clearly utterly disgusting to her. Which was something of a relief to be honest (thank God him indoors didn’t hear me suggesting that sort of game.)
“It’s not that bad!”
“Mummy what toys did you have?” Clearly kiss chase was enough to change her line of questioning.
“I had Rhubarb and Panda, and a squirrel and a lion.”
“And did you have cars?” she was remembering a previous conversation we’d had about how I used to play with my Dinky toy cars in the mornings in my bedroom when I woke up before waking my mother up. It’s actually true. My father still has a box of them at his house now and he brought them out for the girls recently and I got all sentimental about them. I appreciate it’s an odd thing for a little girl to enjoy playing with but I’d park them in neat rows for ages in the mornings. Perfectly normal.
Anyway telling her that worked because she’s been playing in her room in the mornings occasionally. Result.
So anyway we chatted about what toys I played with when I was young and we talked a bit about what songs I used to sing and what rules we had in the house (I struggled on that one, can’t really remember any rules, it was all a bit sporadic). Then somewhat out of the blue she asked:
“Mummy did you go to a factory?”
“Er, no I don’t think I ever visited a factory when I was little. Do you mean at school perhaps?” Factories have never figured very large in my life. I went to see one for work a few years ago, had to wear a blue hairnet. That’s about the extent of my knowledge.
“No Mummy, like some children who were 5 had to go to a factory. Did you?”
Ah, it all came back to me. I believe at some point or other I might have been known to mention that in the ‘olden days’ children of 5 were sent to work in factories and didn’t have lots of lovely toys to play with etc etc. I still find it extraordinary that I roll out these hackneyed phrases, even as I say them I find it incredible that I’m actually saying it. Like ‘there are children who don’t have anything to eat at all so you should eat your potatoes.” Because before you have kids you can’t imagine you’d say anything so predictable. But you do, of course you do.
So Eliza in her 5 year old wisdom had an image of me as a child playing with my little cars in my bedroom on my own before my mother packed me off for a day’s work in the factory.
I’m happy to say that wasn’t the case. Well not the bit about the factory anyway.