|Daisy reading 'Spinderella' by Julia Donaldson and |
Sebastien Braun recently - she's almost word perfect,
A few months ago I told you about my little granddaughter’s beginning to tell stories. A few months, of course, is a long time when you’re only two, and in that time Daisy's language use and conversational abilities have progressed enormously. She now seems to have a handle on all the various English tenses (no mean feat, that) and has begun to ask a whole variety of questions, though she is only just getting started on ‘why’ – that’s a pleasure still to come for us all. Still, Daddy teaches physics and Mummy teaches sociology, RE and law, so perhaps between them they will cope (?)
We were at the park, Daisy and I, last week. She had been on the swings: ‘Even higher, Nana!’ – and we'd spent fifteen minutes going up and down a ramp. Her next port of call was a climbing net that gave access to a high, enclosed slide, clearly designed for children a little older than Daisy. She was determined to climb up that net, however – gritting her teeth, curling her fists tight, refusing to let go. ‘Lift me up, Nana – please!’ That ‘please’ really got to me. I would have if I could but I simply wasn’t tall enough or strong enough and I have a back that complains if I strain it too much. Try explaining this to a two-year-old! ‘I’m truly sorry, Daisy, but I just can’t. I’m not big enough. I can’t reach!’ Over and over, but she couldn’t – or wouldn’t – understand.
I was impressed by what came next. When I finally persuaded her to come down, there were no tears, no wailing, no anger, not really. Just a huge well of disappointment swallowing her up. Her little face contorted with the power of it, she went off on her own, fifty yards or so away, sat down on a log and… I was going to say ‘sulked’ but it wasn’t really a sulk, or at least, it wasn’t a manipulative, punishing sulk. She looked up at me every few minutes and I gave her a wave. Satisfied I was still there and still smiling, she returned to her log. After about ten minutes she got up, walked towards me and gave me a big smile. Crisis over. Emotions processed. Back to normal.
She led me over to the base of the slide, where we both sat down. A few minutes later, she said, ‘Tell me a story, Nana.’
Five stories later, she was ready to move on. The whole sequence really got me thinking. Not only the impressive way she dealt with her acute disappointment (a lot of us, including me, could learn from that!) but the way she asked for a story afterwards. Maybe I’m being fanciful but I couldn’t help wondering – was that part of her way of dealing with the whole experience? I didn’t especially try to tell stories that dealt with disappointments – that would have felt a bit too obvious – but I think the topic crept into one or two of them. It was clear, anyway, that Daisy craved the comfort of a story after her trying experience.
This led me to think about what stories do for a child of Daisy’s age. There’s the joy of being read to, of course, which many of us never lose (especially delightful when combined with a cuddle from someone you love). There’s distraction – a good way of forgetting or putting to one side whatever is bothering you. There’s relieving boredom – filling in a bit of time. There’s the satisfying of curiosity and the pleasure of finding out about other people, places and things. There’s reliving something that was fun. There’s hearing what your daddy did when he was a little boy (not sure how much Daisy understands but she certainly seems to like it). There’s laughter and fun and meeting familiar characters. There’s that lovely sense of knowing what comes next. There’s the comfort you get from re-living things that were hard at the time but can feel better, looking back at them. There’s the delight you get from remembering many of the words and ‘reading’ for yourself (it will be real reading before too long, in Daisy’s case, I’m sure). And there are all those interesting words, old and new, the lovely sounds they make and the fun of saying them yourself.
Many of those reading pleasures are true for me, too. In fact the reasons I read, when I think about it, probably haven’t changed much since I was Daisy’s age. Reading is something that works when you’re too tired to do anything else, but you’re not quite ready for sleep. It works when you’re overwhelmed or lonely, when you need to escape into someone else’s life and process your own experiences while maintaining a safe distance. It’s so good to know that Daisy has found something that she will, all being well, continue to love for the rest of her life. I have a feeling she may be making up stories of her own before very long and I can’t wait to hear them.