My grandchildren are growing up.
The eldest is learning to write. “Fat” in thick red poster-paint. It might have been “cat”, which is traditionally the first thing children write after the circular squiggle and the head with arms and legs, but it was hard to tell because she’d changed direction to go round the light switch.
And the framed photo.
And the bookshelf.
She wanted to write granddad, too, but didn’t know how. I’m glad because that would have taken her across the windows, the television and the sofa.
Now what do I do? I’m very proud of her. I don’t want to scrub it off, even assuming I could. And at least she’s stopped scribbling in books.
Soâ€¦ it stays. Even though I resent the implication that “granddad is fat”. Or cat. I like to think she simply didn’t know how to write “thin” which describes me more accurately. And I’ve tried to explain to her about the laws of libel and my right to sue.
She just stared blankly at my shirt. I think she saw it as a potential wall.
Funny how we change. When my kids wrote on the wall I reacted like they’d swallowed bleach. Grabbed the felt tips and the paints; grabbed them, too; dumped them in a chair, told them they were bad (really!) and gave them a small, neat square of paper that had folds in and a letter from the bank on the other side.
I’m surprised they still love me.
Then I spent hours scrubbing the words off the wall, reducing their creativity to a vandalised smear, and apologising to friends about the state of the lounge room.
Not any more.
The first place my friends will be shown is the lounge room wall. “A prodigy,” I shall say, “She wanted to write granddad but she didn’t have room.”
Naturally I will have to say this out of earshot of my granddaughter. If she gets the idea I like it I might find a whole range of my physiological features graffitied across the entire house: bald, old, smellyâ€¦ she’d probably find wrinkly a bit tricky, even if she is advanced for her age.
When I was 35 and my kids were three and four it all seemed so desperately important. Now I can look at this Ñ the writing on the wall Ñ or the not eating the vegetables, or the picking of the nose, or the unremitting holding of the willy, and I can say calmly: “They won’t be doing it when they’re 21.”
Probably. Come to think of it, I know grown ups who do all those things, including writing on wallsâ€¦ railway walls, office block walls, house walls. If I’m honest, I’d have to say I’d rather they did that than hold their willy all day, but who knows what the fates have in store?
For now “fat” stays. I’m thinking of moving the framed photo and the furniture to provide her with a real canvas for a truly ambitious work. Why not?
Maybe all the graffiti vandals we have today were restricted to drawing on the backs of redundant bank letters when they were kids.
Maybe they were told they were bad!
Prevention is not the answer! Guidance is what’s required.
First I shall show her how to write “granddad”, then we’ll move on to “smart”, “handsome”, “kind”â€¦.