Toddler Style

This week, Jack has been mainly channelling Olivia Newton John whilst working his ‘early 80s fitness fanatic’ look. Glasses: by Baby Banz; Hair: by Mum, Pout: Model’s own



Richie is away for a fortnight and I’m determined that Jack and I will have an extra-lovely time together to compensate for Daddy’s absence. Of course I’m delighted to have an excuse to put all non-essential chores on hold and devote myself entirely to playing. (Not that the lack of an excuse has ever stopped me.) Even so, as time wears on, Jack’s really starting to miss his Daddy. I know this not just because of my finely attuned motherly intuition but also because he has taken to regularly yelling out ‘I want my Daddy.’ Bless.

Tantrums have also become more frequent and easily provoked and he has developed a slight Tourette’s style tic – calling out ‘Daddy’ inappropriately at intervals. Poor wee mite. I think he’s experiencing a bereavement in miniature. Being too young to grasp the concept of time and days he is starting to doubt my reassurances and to give up all hope of his father returning at all.

So it’s been all about Occupy Bubster this last little while. Luckily we are being blessed with some beautiful spring weather allowing us to play outside all day every day. Sure beats trying to occupy a boisterous toddler indoors – there’s only so many times this mama can race around the sofa before starting to feel quite literally sick and tired.

We start most days off with a spot of football in the road outside (yes, it is that quiet here). I’m keen to enjoy these precious years with him – the years when he actually thinks I have impressive ball skills. It’s a great feeling being gazed at in awe as I kick a ball against the wall. (On a side note, it says a lot about my singing that already he tells me ‘no mummy, no singing’ as soon as I open my mouth for a rendition of ‘heads, shoulders, knees and toes’.)

Another effect of the glorious spring weather is that all the neighbours are taking to their huertas (vegetable plots) to till and sow. I feel shamed into inspired to seize the moment and do the same while conditions are optimum. It will be the perfect mother-son activity, I think. I picture myself as a young Felicity Kendal in The Good Life, toiling in the soil in dreamy soft focus. Jack will be gambolling lamblike in the grass and learning at my elbow as he apes my work with his bucket and spade. By the time Richie returns I will surely have planted enough veg to put us well on our way to self-sufficiency this year. I am nothing if not optimistic.

Local gardening gear -a hoe and madrenas (Asturian clogs)left at the entrance to my neighbour's huerta

The reality is somewhat different. By the time we even reach the veg plot I am already hot, sweaty and bothered. It is 50 metres from the house, which may not sound like much but in toddler miles it can be very far indeed. It takes us nearly 20 minutes to cover the distance on the first morning. I am laden with an impressive array of gardening tools and toys and also, by the end, am balancing Jack on my shoulders as I tire of waiting for the distractable monkey to make it under his own steam.

Within seconds of our arrival Jack has found some nettles. Wails echo round the valley (the acoustics here on the hilltop are amazing.) We sit and cuddle a while in the long grass. Finally I set to weeding some of the fruit bushes, a suitably unambitious first task, and Jack gets stuck in alongside me with his mini-fork and spade. He is mainly replanting the weeds I have just removed but I comfort myself with the thought that at least the soil is getting a good turning over.

A rather lovely workspace with excellent acoustics!

I cling to this thought at various points throughout the morning – particularly as Jack follows behind me digging up all the delicate seedlings I am planting out. I used to find gardening a wonderfully zenlike escape, the pure earthy physicality of it stilling my mind into silence. Today my mind is racing, searching for ways to entertain Jack, new ‘jobs’ to give him,  ergonomic ways to detach him from his new default position of hanging from my neck as I dig and always, always, keeping an eye for the various hazards that he is invariably attracted to. Relaxing it is not. Nor is it particularly productive. I gaze with envy at the patchwork of well-tended huertas that surround us.

I think I’d better reconcile myself to the idea that another year will go past without a grand harvest of organic veg. I would dearly love to be able to feed our family on exclusively home-grown, contaminant free food. I have a real belief in the benefits of organic production – when I was living in the UK and earning good money I used to spend a small fortune on eating almost entirely organic produce. But times have changed.

Now I am a stay-at-home mum with a partner who only works part-time (all our own choice), we can’t afford to pay the exorbitant supermarket prices for ‘ecologico’ foodstuffs. Being a full time mum to a toddler who demands (and deserves) my full attention, nor can I afford the time to produce a massive harvest.

Jack may not have an entirely ‘pure’ organic diet but he is nourished with much love and attention as well as home-cooked food. The hours we have spent in the garden this week may have made little impact on the vegetable plot but they have been hours that we spent together in the fresh air, playing with mud, learning and having fun. Any vegetable harvest will be a bonus.

If there is one lesson to be learned from growing vegetables it is that you must act appropriately at the right time. There is a season to everything. Soon enough Jack will be starting in school and I will have many uninterrupted hours in the week to dedicate to other things. For now, I must be satisfied with bumbling along inefficiently but (mostly) merrily, dabbling in tasks when I can.

And at this precise moment in time, my focus is on simply making it through to Richie’s return. Roll on Saturday!