I recently went to see a screening of Gladiator at The Royal Albert Hall, accompanied live by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. They even had the singer there who does all the atmospheric, undulating “ahhhh ah ahhhhhs” when Maximus walks through the field of corn. It was seriously amazing and, although I’ve seen the film umpteen times, I enjoyed it more than ever before. Because my brain functions in such a way, it led me to start thinking about parallels between Commodus and toddlers – tenuous, I know. OK, so they don’t subject people to being ripped apart by wild animals or anything like that, but there are similarities in the way Commodus is always on the cusp of losing it. He can’t deal with his emotions and is a slave to his whims. See? Toddler. The bit that completely struck a cord with me was when Maximus annihilates the opposition then walks round the arena shouting that famous line “Are you not entertained?” to the crowd. I get it, Maximus. I get it. Again, not so much the swordsmanship and violence, but it’s sometimes how I feel when I’ve busted a gut to introduce The Toddler to something that I thought would amuse him endlessly. Or at least for twenty minutes.
Given the choice, The Toddler would most likely eat and watch TV all day. He’s effectively one string vest and a can of lager away from becoming Rab C Nesbitt. In an effort to coerce him into becoming a “well rounded individual” I browsed Pinterest for hours, pinning all these great, crafty ideas that will help him improve his motor skills – gross and fine, his decision making, his bloody synapse connections etc. I bought little feathers, pom poms, glue, child safe scissors, glitter, paint, crayons, stickers….the list goes on.
It’s always the same. I get a little thrill when I buy these things as I picture us bonding over brush-strokes and potato prints and marvelling at the images revealed by leaf rubbing (which will lead to a discussion about texture and different types of trees). His initial reaction to these activities ranges from fevered enthusiasm to mild interest – the former generally being reserved for food related tasks. Once I covered the kitchen floor with a huge plastic sheet, paints, brushes and various different materials. It was a full on “stand back and let your child explore” situation. He came into the room saying “wow!”, sat down, painted the sole of his foot and ran off, printing tiny blue footprints all around the house. I suppose that was quite arty. But he didn’t even touch the apple half, the cork or the loo roll tube. He didn’t even try a different colour paint for God’s sake. And, of course, the clearing up took five times longer than he’d spent on the “activity”. All these things ended in a big fat Caesar-esque thumbs down.
So, cooking is where the fun seemed to lay. He loves to cook because he loves to eat. Again,I searched for some super simple toddler-friendly recipes online and set to it. We’ve had some great successes – namely the Four Ingredient Banana Oat Bars because, well, there are only four ingredients. We branched out to some slightly more sophisticated muffins but I struggled to maintain a “cool mum, relaxed with eggy, floury mess” vibe, which resulted in me becoming ever more shrill and the whole operation floundering into something somewhat unpleasant. Despite all this, I love it because he loves it. I’ve become more organised in my approach – get all ingredients ready, keep it as simple as humanly possible, and all under 15 minutes. He can barely contain himself if the oven is involved, with calls of “Is it ready?” approximately every 7 seconds.
So, the feathers and pom poms are staying put for a little bit longer. I’ll give it a go again one day but, for now, I’ll take my chances with the eggy, floury mess that seems to get the thumbs up from my Little Caesar.