A Mother And Daughter Afternoon At The NUA Degree Shows.

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By Tina Hannay.

And then it just stopped. The constant arguing, the blistering anger that would ignite over the most unlikely things, the need to control every. single. thing; like a summer storm it blew over almost as swiftly as it arrived.

Well, maybe not entirely. Freya is still three, after all – and has a very definite opinion about when it’s appropriate to wear sandals (pretty much any day it’s raining).

Thankfully, while she remains feisty and opinionated, it mostly seems more measured (for now).

It’s better.

Definitely easier.

I can (sort of) understand where she’s coming from and wade through it rather than just (mentally) throwing my hands up, at a loss as to know how to help her but holding on for dear life anyway.

I’d go as far as to say that nearly four is my favourite age so far.

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Last week I wanted to visit the Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) degree shows and, as the only day I could do it was Friday, I decided to take Freya, as I thought she might like it too.

 

By Rebecca Goddard and Emily Willgress.

After lunch we hopped on a bus into the city and strolled down to the campus where we toured the various buildings looking at the work of some of this year’s 600 graduates.

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By Sean Hancock.

 

Works on display include “paintings and illustrations, fashion garments and textile patterns, architectural drawings and models, sculptures, photographs, short films and animations, portfolios of graphic design work and video game demos”.

I’ve listed links for all the work I’ve featured at the end, where I could find them, but there were so many I didn’t get chance to take photos of but were equally brilliant (and many more I didn’t get to see at all) so really you need to go and look for yourself, if possible.

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By Nancy Peart

Getting Freya’s take on things was entertaining (she was really engaged and inspired to create her own painting as soon as we got home). There were tiny brains, an animal skull which she was fascinated by and a work that included sand which she found particularly hard not to touch.

She thought the photo on the left (below) was the Northern Lights.

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By Faryal Waiz.

I also found it really inspiring – there are definitely some stars of the future just waiting to be discovered.

I was buzzing afterwards (as I treated Freya to a tub of Norfolk strawberry ice-cream in a nearby cafe) – and not just because I had given my brain what felt like an intense workout for the first time in ages but also because we both seemed to enjoy it as much as the other. So often we either do something for the pleasure of one (softplay) or the other (hunting for butterflies) or neither of us (supermarket shopping). I hope we can find more things we enjoy together.

This photo by Victoria Brooks is one of my favourites, I just found it arresting. Then there was an illustrated book by Lauren Phillips I was very taken with.

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By Victoria Brooks.

Freya really liked the textiles, including these models by Danielle Taylor but also the video games (particularly as she got to wear headphones and play with a controller).

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The degree shows are free to visit but you only have today and tomorrow left so get in quick! Please check the website for opening times. There’s also a shop, Unexpected Item In The Bagging Area, full of beautiful things to buy.

To find out more about the work I featured please click on the links below.

Tina Hannay

Emily Willgress

Victoria Brooks

Nancy Peart

Lauren Phillips

Sean Hancock

Rebecca Goddard

Freya, Freya, Quite Contrary (Why Didn’t I Name Her Mary?).

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At three years and nearly eight months old Freya definitely seems to have climbed aboard the rollercoaster taking her from being a toddler to a child – and what a wild ride it is.

Sometimes she seems so grown-up, especially when she’s in her school uniform, racing into nursery without a backward glance. I always stand still and wait for a few seconds, amid the hustle and bustle of drop off, trying to catch a glimpse of her through the door, just in case she suddenly remembers she hasn’t said goodbye and comes back.

She never does.

At other times there are little reminders that maybe the train is still trundling its way up that final hill before hurtling down the other side.

She often pretends to be a (crying) baby and asks me to swaddle her in a blanket (not that she liked that when she was an actual baby, always preferring her arms free).

“Sing me a lullaby,” she pleads while I cradle her on my knees, with her legs now dangling almost to the floor.

As a pretend baby she’s quite the tinker. Her first words appear to be “poop” and “bum” at which I act horrified, sending her into fits of giggles.

She’s not the only one laughing. I know every one thinks their child is hilarious but some of the things she comes out with have me either in stitches or make me want to roll my eyes.

At the moment she’s taken to calling me “buddy”.

The conversations we have now amaze me almost as much as they bemuse me.

“Is the sky a book?” She asked, after we spent some time looking for animal shapes in the clouds.

I love her sideways (sometimes upside down) take on various things. I probably get as much out of our chats as she does.

However, if I had to pick one word to describe her right now it would be contrary (I knew I should have named her Mary).

No matter what I say she will disagree – even when it’s for her benefit.

Nothing is too small to be argued about, which makes everything a billion times harder.

The other day she was even arguing with the SatNav and was genuinely furious when we decided not to follow her instructions – that would have sent us completely the wrong way.

She’s three going on 13.

So. Much. Attitude.

I mostly try and sympathise or look at the bigger picture and quite often I just take Elsa’s advice and let it go.

It’s just a stage. A hard stage (for her and me). Hopefully it means she going to grow into a confident and assertive child.

The one good thing about sleep deprivation is that my parenting style is more relaxed than I think it would be if I were running at full speed/not so knackered.

Some days I do worry that saying yes much more than I say no is not doing her any favours (especially now she’s at nursery).

Some days I also know I am not the mum I want to be.

I snap at her when I should explain, demand when I should ask. I long for bedtime (only to miss her five minutes after she’s asleep).

When she tells me “You’re the worst mummy I’ve ever had”, ironically usually when I feel like I’ve not done too badly that day, it hits its mark.

Guilt comes trotting up telling me she’s like this because I’m doing it all wrong.

“She’s a reflection of you.”

And then, every now and then, something happens and I see a glimmer of light. A flicker of what I hope she might be like in the future.

We were in a shopping mall recently looking out of the window while we waited for Mark and she spotted a man going through the litter bins.

“Why is he putting his hands in the bins?” She asked. That is a definite no in our house.

I try and answer all her questions as honestly as possible – while remembering she’s three.

“He’s looking for food. He doesn’t have a home, so he doesn’t have his own kitchen, which means he has no food and he’s hungry.”

“That’s really sad,” she said, frowning.

“It is really sad. It makes us really lucky because we do have a home and we have food in our fridge.”

“I know! He could come and live with us,” She said, ready to dash down the stairs and invite him.

I felt a lump in my throat.

“That would be a nice thing to do but we unfortunately don’t have enough room. Where would he sleep?”

“He can have my bed.”

“Your bed is only small though. How about this? When we go shopping we can buy some extra food for people like him who need it.”

I try and do this anyway but I’ve never thought to explain why I’ve put the pasta and soup I’ve just bought as part of our shopping into the wire basket by the check out for the food bank. It’s not enough, of course, and her kindness made me realise that it’s not a very personal approach and that maybe I need to do more.

She seemed somewhat satisfied with that (she told every one we know that she had something sad to tell them and then explained homelessness for days afterwards, so it was clearly still playing on her mind). In the next moment she had taken her shoes off and was refusing to put them back on.

Even as I thought “here we go again’, I smiled.

I’m not claiming any credit for her compassion, as I feel like maybe that has to be something within you, but it makes me excited to see who eventually steps off that rollercoaster (and start bookmarking blog posts like this to see me through her teenage years or maybe four, five, six etc, which friends tell me also have their challenges).

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How did you handle the contrary stage? Did you just hold on tight and enjoy the ride?

Little Hearts, Big Love

Life, The Universe And My Three-Year-Old.

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“Mummy, do you know what the Big Bang was?” Freya asked.

It was 7am and it had been my turn for a lie-in (I know, who’d have though I’d ever call 7am a lie-in?). I had woken up just a few seconds before. As I staggered into the living room my mind was on what to have for breakfast, not trying to explain the creation of the universe.

I actually swore in my head (I’m really grumpy first-thing).

My poor old brain started to crank up, I could almost hear the rusty cogs begin to ever-so-slowly grind together.

She’s been asking some corkers lately…”What is Roman?”, “Where does water come from?” and “Who is Jesus?”

While I’ve had a good stab at them, they can sometimes lack a few (very occasionally essential) facts. She usually asks things at The Worst Possible Moment, such as when I’m driving, in the middle of the supermarket shop or desperately trying to find a public toilet for her. As a result I usually follow up with a “we can look it up when we get home” using my handy set of encyclopedia, which a neighbour gave to me when I was small (and date from 1933). They have been lugged from house to house for several decades and even though some of the information is perhaps a little out of date (and some things obviously don’t feature at all) I love physically being able to flick through the pages and look something up.

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Her questions have definitely been getting harder lately (and by that I mean she no longer just asks “why?” to everything) but this, well…

“So…” I started, working out how best to explain it to a three-year-old.

“You know she means the big bang from last night, right? The sound that made her jump,” Mark interrupted, looking at me like I was losing the plot.

All of the air whooshed out of my body.

“Thank goodness.” Although in some respects that was harder to answer because I had no knowledge of this bang.

“Probably a car backfiring,” I guessed.

She seemed happy enough.

~

A quick snapshot of some of the things she’s said to make me laugh/cry a little recently.

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“What sort of cake should we make?” I asked her.

“Not a poisoned one,” she answered instantly.

Well. I always set out trying not to poison people with baked goods, honest.

Mark and I were chatting in the car recently about something he needed to do for work and he asked me:

“Have you ever written a skills matrix?”

Before I could answer, Freya piped up from the back: “I have but it was a long time ago”.

!

Then there is the brutal honesty.

I came out of the bathroom wearing a new red top. I hardly ever buy anything new but I saw this top and thought I would cheer myself up with a little treat.

“I think you look better in your old clothes,” Freya said as soon as she saw me.

Charming.

Life is never dull, that’s for sure.

Little Hearts, Big Love
Cuddle Fairy