Monday, January 24, 2011

Puppy Dog Tails

This piece originally appeared in the January 2010 issue of Practical Parenting Magazine.

Last week, one of Keith’s work colleagues said warmly ‘Tell me about little Peanut. Is she three? I bet it’s a pink and frilly Princess-land at your place.’ Not so much, Keith replied, as he tried to explain his daughter’s interests in blood, bones, death and dinosaurs. ‘Maybe she’ll be an anatomist,’ his colleague suggested. ‘Yes,’ said Keith. ‘Or a sociopath.’

When dress-up day at pre-school arrived, I suggested that Peanut dress up as a cat, but she had other ideas. ‘I’m the Black Ghost, Mummy,’ she cried. ‘The Ghost who might kill everybody in the whole world!’ I let the Black Ghost go to school, but as I watched the other animals, fairies and superheroes file in, I felt nervous and hoped that she’d keep her plans for mass murder to herself.

I admit that I’ve never been a very pink-sprinkly-cupcakes kind of mother, but I still don’t know where this tiny emo of ours came from. Family chat around the dinner table doesn’t tend to cover cremation or haemorrhage or surgery. I don’t put Peanut to sleep reading passages from the Tibetan Book of the Dead. She and two-year-old T-Bone watch Play School, not Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I promise. Peanut has always been the most independent of daughters and her Gothic leanings – like the invention of the Black Ghost, and her fascination with skulls - are her very own.

Plus, she’s three, and so all of her ideas have a slightly surreal, absurd bent to them. ‘Don’t eat hot poo, Mummy,’ she told me recently, in passing conversation. ‘It will deaden you.’ To what, I wondered? Contemporary social mores? Gourmet taste sensations? ‘You would die,’ she insisted, and two-year old T-Bone, her faithful sidekick agreed. ‘Hot poo! Die!’ he affirmed.

Lately, however, it’s all about dinosaurs. Peanut keeps a green clothes-peg marking her favourite page of the dinosaur book, where a Tyrannosaurus Rex is brutally slaying a Stegosaurus. Blood, bones and gore abound, but she can stare happily at this page for hours, re-enact it, and discuss it at length. ‘Let’s talks about the T-Rex, Mama,’ she likes to suggest. ‘He’s a meat-eater.’ Peanut combines this macabre interest with a naturally dramatic personality, so now every time she stubs a toe or squishes a finger, she moans ‘Oh no, I feel like I died!’

Often I try and understand what’s going on inside her little gothic brain, but it’s not always clear, especially when T-Bone joins the conversation. Playing Doctors last week, I called for my next patient. ‘What’s the problem, Miss?’ I asked. ‘A T-Rex bit my leg off,’ Peanut told me. ‘How does it feel?’ I asked. Predictably, Peanut replied ‘Like I died.’ I sensed a Teachable Moment. ‘How old are people when they die, Peanut?’ I asked. ‘A hundred,’ she relied knowledgably. ‘And what kinds of things can you die from?’ I asked, but Teddy knew that one, and he leapt in before she could answer. ‘Hot poo, Mama!’ he shouted with delight. ‘Hot poo!’ I give up. Mark another win up to the Black Ghost.


  1. I like the fact that the Black Ghost MIGHT kill everybody in the whole world. A mysterious ambivalence at the heart of the Black Ghost's psyche...? Bx

  2. Hilarious!!

    I am not princess fairy sparkely pink rinbow type AT ALL! but when the princess gene kicked in their was no holding back.

    She recently renamed her toy dog, known as John, to Rainbow Princess Unicorn.

    This left me gagging inside.

    She does loveinsects so at least that is something.

  3. I hope I do not die a "hot poo" death.................. Love the stories and what an imagination!

  4. I love reading this, and not just for your humour, which I always love, but because lately I've been noticing how many parents see enormous, sweeping differences in boys and girls from birth, rather than looking at differences on an individual level. I only have a girl but she happens to love trucks. And babies. But I'm going to do my best not to encourage her either way in the hope she'll stretch out her own wings and find what interests her. Anyway. Very enjoyable post as usual. Kellie xx

  5. Very funny and endearing. Obviously cold poo is less dangerous, then?

  6. Hot poo??? As a person who recently passed an 8lb baby out of her body in one almighty push and is since keeping the local chemist's children in private schools due to hemorrhoid cream sales, all I can say is "OUCH!!"

  7. I love this! My girl is a morbid sparkly princess. Just as comfortable with bloody guts as she is with rainbows and fairy wings. It is amazing to watch those little ones grow!

  8. Love that Peanut's outlook, and the T-Bone runs a close second. Good stuff!

  9. Peanut & T-Bone, you rock! And yes, I'm afraid, hot poo might kill you.

  10. Love. Love. Love.

    You're probably aware that with an ambo in the house, dinner-time conversation often does turn to bloody dismemberment, but it doesn't seem to have much of an impact on the sproglets' imagination. Their choice of mortal-coil-exit is usually dinosaur bites, some kind of super-hero showdown or 'guns that shoot angry hippos'.

    PS. When Peanut and Mitch finally get together, I think it may be Armageddon.

  11. Hi!

    I would like to talk to you about an article I wrote that, being a parent, I think you would enjoy (on early childhood education). I'd love it if you could drop me an email quick so I can give you more details if you're interested or if you were interested in new content for your blog.


  12. Ha! I can't wait to read what all the nongers will say on the PP website. xx


Thanks for talking to me. I don't got cooties. Oh, except for when I got cooties.