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First time at the flicks…

“Would you like to go to the cinema?” I ask teeniest, having spotted a great new children’s film about to show at our small town theatre.
“Will there be trains there? Or cars?” he replies excitedly. I suddenly realise that we haven’t ever taken him to the cinema before and so he has no idea what it actually is!
“No, no trains or cars”, I say with a smile. “Going to the cinema is a bit like watching a film on television, only the screen is much bigger.”
“Oh”, says teeniest, brain whirring.
“You usually get treats at the cinema as well”, I add. “Drinks, sweets, popcorn – things like that.”
“OK. I’ll go”, he replies immediately, rushing into the hall to look for his shoes. “Can we go straight now?”…

Three sleeps later and it’s cinema day.
“You said there was a big TV”, whines teeniest when we get to the auditorium. All he can see is dark red curtains which are hiding the screen.
“You’ll see it in a minute”, I say, trying to find our seats. As soon as we sit down, he’s up again. He’s found that banging the seat down as hard as you can, then watching it bounce up again is a great game.
Curtains open, lights dim and the trailers start.
“Who’s got the TV remote?”, teeniest shouts, as he kneels on his seat and peers around the cinema in the dark to try and find the lucky person.
“No-one, darling”, I whisper, trying desperately to get him to sit down again and be quiet. “There’s a man at the back who projects the film onto the screen. Now let’s just watch the trailers”.
“Trailers”, he repeats incredulously, standing up again. “Why didn’t you say there were tractors here? You said there were no cars…”

Film eventually starts. Teeniest starts fidgeting. I think he’s still looking for the man with the TV remote. Then he says he needs a wee, so we dash to the toilet.
Half an hour passes. I try to get into the film.
Teeniest, meanwhile:
* Munches noisly on a bag of crisps
*Sucks furiously on a drink carton straw, making slurpy noises just as the film gets to a quiet scene
*Says he needs a wee again (I realise he’s taken a liking to the handdryer in the ladies)
*Gets glared at by the grown up in front whose seat he has been continuously kicking
*Starts searching through my handbag for a red toy car that he insists he brought with him and has to play with NOW.
Once again I try to ignore him. The film is getting to a good bit. I know it’s a children’s film but even I am quite gripped.
“Mummy.” Teeniest starts prodding me again.
“Mummy,” he announces loudly. “I think I like coming to the cinema…
But when’s the film actually going to start?”

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No space to listen

“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” Catherine M Wallace

I love this quote by Catherine M Wallace. Reflecting back on the past few weeks, listening to the children is not something I have been particularly good at. I am hoping I may be able to change that during half term.

“Did you know our fridge killed a star?”, says middle son, reading his latest book on space at the kitchen table while I frantically whip up some fairy cakes for tomorrow’s school cake sale and throw together a bolognese sauce for tea at the same time.
“Really darling”, I reply vaguely, wondering how I am possibly going to get everything done before cubs at 6.30pm. “Talking about the fridge, could you just get the eggs out for me please.”
“The thing is…” he continues, totally ignoring my request. “The thing is that our fridge is partly made of iron, right? Well. This book says that stars burn on fuel. First hydrogen, then helium, then heavier and heavier elements until eventually they burn iron.”
“Oh no!” I shriek, dropping flour all over the floor as I sprint across the kitchen to the hob. “They’re burning. The onions are burning. They’ll be ruined!”
“Mum, you’re not listening to what I’m saying”, states middle son glumly. “I said stars burn iron, not onions. Then the iron absorbs energy.”
“I want a star. A chocolate one”, squeals teeniest, spotting a bag of chocolate stars which I had been planning to use to decorate the cakes. Until now he had been quietly sitting in the corner of the kitchen unnoticed, pulling the 100 cupcake cases out of the packet, one by one, then lining them up, and carefully placing a marble in the middle of each one.
“Stars aren’t chocolate, stupid,” says middle son, trying to snatch the bag of stars off teeniest. “Stars have iron in them. When gravity crushes a star it explodes and the iron…”
“I’m going to explode in a minute”, I scream, as teeniest tries to hold onto the packet of stars for dear life, then promptly drops it and its contents all over the floor. Stars, cupcake cases, marbles are everywhere. This was not in my plan.
“I’m not going to tell you the rest”, says middle son indignantly, about to strop off. “You never listen to anything I say. You’re just not interested.”
I start to feel a bit bad. He’s so right. I haven’t been paying attention to any of his explanation.
I lie.
“Fridges…Burning…Stars…Explosions… I’ve been listening to every single word. It’s just that I’m a little bit busy right now. Please tell me the rest.”
Middle son immediately cheers up. “Well you see, when a star explodes, the iron is attracted to the earth, becomes part of the rocks – and when the miners dig it out it is used to make our fridge. So basically our fridge killed a star.”
“Brilliant”, I say, making a real effort. “Fantastic. I never knew any of that. It’s really interesting.”
Suddenly I realise the time. Nobody has been fed yet and the cakes haven’t even been made. We’ll never get to cubs at this rate. Yet again listening goes out of the window.
“It’s great to know that fridges kill stars”, I say, trying not to sound impatient. “But all I’m really interested in right now is you actually opening ours and getting the eggs out for me…”