Sunday, July 13, 2008

"No, I'm a Vegetarian!"

Harriet has been so interesting lately. We've started fielding some of the 'bigger' questions from her which has been interesting. Today, for example, we drove past an animal circus that is down the road from us. It evoked a discussion in the car about how we should and shouldn't treat animals and about our family's vegetarianism. When Harry was asking about meat we didn't hold back completely, but we didn't go into gruesome details. For example she asked us how people ate a cow. I told her that the first thing they do is cut off its head. At this, she just burst into tears.

It reminded me of a series called 'Frontier House' a few years back, where a modern family had to kill a chicken (I think). The young boy was hysterically upset and not one member of the family discussed with him how he felt or even posited the idea of vegetarianism to him. That has never left me and I didn't want Harriet to shy away from her emotional response to the idea of animals being killed purely for food. It is shocking and sad and emotional. We calmed her down by explaining that in our family we don't do that. That we respect animals and we choose not to eat them because we don't have to.

It seemed a timely discussion to have because I had been thinking about bringing it up with regard to her going to preschool next year. I thought we'd just ease into talking about animals and then about eating and somehow, over time, have a gentle chat about it, gradually leading up to a more serious discussion. Harriet, of course, doesn't do anything by halves, we should have remembered that! But we talked about how if someone offers her some chicken (for example) she should say "No, I'm a vegetarian!". And this became a wonderful note to stop the conversation on, because it became a game. We'd think of some animal and say "Harriet, would you like to eat some duck?" and she would laugh and say "NO! I'm a veg-ah-wear-een". Also we'd arrived at Spotlight, so it was time to get out of the car. The bigger issues in life and all that.

We were at Spotlight as part of our big changes at the house extravaganza. After acquiring a little windfall from the government, we have been doing a few much-needed jobs around the house. Buying a new hot water system (which resulted in Harriet needing "some of that water from the new hot water system in my cup please Mama" for the next day or two) has been one of those and has also had the pleasant side effect of creating a whole new storage space in our playroom. Both of the adults here have been getting some long awaited dental work, and Harriet's feature wall has this weekend changed from pink to blue! I've always regretted the choice of colour in her room. It was the last colour choice and reached with a little push from the colour consultant at the end of the day with next-to-no light. For one thing Harry is just so not a little girl with a pink wall in her room, if you know what I mean? So anyway, yesterday and today we cleared out the furniture from her room and repainted that feature wall a lovely lavender-blue-grey kind of shade.

I don't think there are too many almost three year olds who would be totally trusted to be involved with painting walls. But let's face it, Harry is just not quite your average little girl. I bought her her own little roller and tray, James showed her how to dip the roller in and roll off the excess in the tray and off she went! She was truly a big help and painted her 'area' (ie: the length of the wall at just above and below her shoulder height) thoroughly and with no mess.

On that note, let me also tell you about how Harriet helped out the other day. We decided to make a banana 'milkshake'. I went into the cupboard to get the blender. I was away for about 60 seconds. In that time Harriet managed to drag her step over, step up, peel the banana and cut it into almost equal pieces. I could barely believe it when I saw it! In fact I whipped ou tmy phone from my pocket and took a quick snap (excuse the smudginess but Harriet loved to place her fingers on the lens when pulling down the cover). She has just become incredibly self sufficient in what seems to be the blink of an eye. She can open our quite tricky and stiff bi-fold doors on her own, lets Smellie and Squeezmo in and out of the back door on her own (this is a huge help because as any cat owner is aware, the need for a cat to move between doors is perfectly inversely proportional to the distance you are from the door). She can go to the toilet completely on her own (although she prefers company - but only preferred company. She has been heard to yell out "Squeezmo get out of the toilet room! I need my privacy!"). Her independent play is amazing! She can play for aaaaggggggeeeesssss on her own now. Of course if someone comes over to our house then it's a whoel different ball game but otherwise I am amazed at how she has jumped from needing heaps of my interaction during pretend play to absolutely none at all.

And while we're on the topic of differences in play, I shoudl really mention what happened the other day when Miss Ruby came over to play. The two of them, with very little interaction from the adults, played together. They also shared and talked through their problems together. It was great! There were times when Harriet wanted something Ruby had and Ruby wanted something Harry had. Neither of them grabbed or cried, (although Harriet did give us a little whine to which we told her gently to tell Ruby what she wanted rather than us...which she did...and Ruby listened to...and responded to...amazing!) and neither of them needed an adult to intervene or move over to facilitate their discussions. They were acting in such a mature fashion that it really did seem to belie their age.

Today Harriet went with James to go and see Justine Clarke at the Enmore Theatre. He was apparently one of only a handful of fathers in the whole place! Bizarre. James was seriously one of the first people in Sydney to buy a ticket to this show. Consequently two of the tallest people in the theatre were sitting in the very front row. This is a photo James sent to me from his phone camera of Harry literally sitting on the stage. The two of them had a grand time and so did I (sitting there in a cafe on my own reading Dirt Music - hard ole life is mine). James did comment that whilst at the show he noticed that Harriet is different to most other children. There's some sort of unusual maturity to her. She doesn't really have a completely carefree, giggly demeanour. She's not overly serious or anything, it's just that she seems to be *thinking* all the time. For example when James was talking to her before the show, James was explaining that Justine would be on stage soon, to which Harry responded "Well then where is she right now?". Which seems rather astute!

Then tonight as she was going to sleep (I actually thought she was asleep so there you go) pipes up with this sentence: "I know that we live in 51 Gumby Street Blandsville, but what number does Cheryl (our neighbour) live at?". Obviously I've changed the real number, street and suburb name here but I thought it quite interesting that she had thought about how I would respond to her question before she asked it, and therefore phrased her question in such a way so that I would be allayed of her knowledge before I jumped in to correct her. In the morning I think we'll have a little adventure to explore how numbers work up and down the street. Maybe even introduce the idea of odd and even numbers...

But she is, still, a three year old. We have been discussing her upcoming birthday party quite a bit lately. She has told me quite firmly that she wants a frog cake, with the cake part to be apple flavoured. Where on earth does she come up with this stuff?!! I mean, she hasn't ever seen a cake that has been 'something' and she hasn't ever had an apple flavoured cake before. Who knows where she gets these ideas, but I'm happy to (try) and oblige. It will just be another little park affair like last year. We found a little kids totem tennis kit (after failing to find a proper cool retro one on ebay, boohoo) that we'll give to her and then take down to the park.

This is Harriet just this morning tackling her soldiers. Soft boiled eggs are, it turns out, a little tricky to peel. In other news we're going to be cutting her hair after her birthday. Yes, you read it here first folks. There will be many tears (from me) and no doubt much wringing of hands and copious photographs, but after Grandma has been for the party we will be snipping off those delicious ringlets. If only some things could stay forever...

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