“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.
“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…”