“What I’d really like for my birthday,” said Eldest when he was about six “is a stick.”
Happy days that are now, unfortunately, long gone.
Two of them have a birthday coming up and no one has so far asked for a stick. An iPhone (you must be kidding, right?), a trampoline, but no sticks.
The youngest two are still crazy for cardboard boxes however. What is it about boys and boxes? If Middle One sees me demolishing an empty box - and I do love a bit of shredding - he goes mental.
“I needed that box! I was going to make something/keep my gerbil in it/use it for storing things…”
So I try to get boxes out of the house as soon as possible. As for boxes that come full of those white, foam, wiggly things - horror! I had to shower Youngest down last week after we unpacked lamps from John Lewis along with hundreds of tiny, sticky balls. They got everywhere: on his eyelashes, down his pants…
I let them keep a small stash of boxes in a cupboard and from time to time - for God’s sake don’t tell them - I have a little purge. I can always say the cleaner did it. She gets blamed for a lot.
Three years ago, when we moved, I dismantled a strange cardboard box-hanging-from-the-ceiling-from-an-old-piece-of-string arrangement in Eldest’s bedroom, throwing out most of the contents. You know the sort of thing: a few empty coke cans, some moldering conkers. I thought he’d forget, but he’s still looking for it.
Chucking things out is just something mums do, we have to, or we’d all drown in the tat. Just watch out for those transparent, orange recycling bags - they can spot a precious drawing through one of those devils at five paces.
“Oh no darling, what has the cleaner done?”
And then there are imaginary boxes. When Eldest was little he used to get scared at night. He was particularly freaked out by a Bible story (thank you Year 1 Teacher, you know who you are). I think it was the goat in was the burning bush. Anyway, one night it was really bad and I had to pull out all the stops.
So, getting into his bed and holding him close, I told him to imagine shrinking the monster until it was tiny, then dropping it into a strong box, winding a big chain around it, locking it up with a large, shiny padlock, carrying it down the garden, digging a hole, placing the box in the hole, covering the hole with soil, and then, finally, going back to the house. Genius.
He lay perfectly still listening to this long, detailed and (though I say so myself) rather brilliant ruse and then said,
“That padlock…can I keep it?”
Actually, I think we gave him one as a birthday present that year.
Now that’s thinking outside the box.