‘The rat, on the other hand…

was running round the room busily, with his arms full of weapons…saying excitedly under his breath as he ran, ‘Here’s-a-sword-for-the-Rat, here’s-a-sword-for-the-Mole, here’s-a-sword-for-the-Toad, here’s-a-sword-for-the-Badger! Here’s-a-pistol-for-the-Rat, here’s-a-pistol-for-the-Mole-here’s-a-pistol-for-the-Badger!’ And so on, in a regular, rhythmical way, while the four little heaps gradually grew and grew.’

Reading this to my daughter last night, I was reminded of myself, and mothers in general, as we rush around with invisible check-lists each morning before school. I have lost count of the times I’ve said, ‘I wish you could hold some of this in your head like I do.’ Chance would be a fine thing.

Now that our eldest is in secondary school, you’d think that those things would be smoothly transferred on to him. But still, every morning, I’m checking he hasn’t forgotten anything. Of course, when I wasn’t there, he left his school shoes in school. When I’m not there, things get burnt to the bottom of saucepans, washing sits in a damp heap in the machine, notes aren’t retrieved from school-bags, lunch-boxes lie unfilled on the counter. Well, in my head that’s what would always happen.

But what if it didn’t? What if I said nothing, did nothing, prompted nothing. Would everything still come together or would it all go wrong? (Of course, I’m only ever going to wonder about that and never put it to the test, controlling person as I am.)

My son is in fact quite organised, and if left to fend for himself, he just might pull it off. What has happened is that all my ‘four little heaps’ of over-preparation have taken the wherewithal away from everybody else. I might feel ready, but they’re not. Because I never give them the chance.

In the story, Badger points out to the flapping Rat that all they really need is a stick each. And he was right. As they all brandished their simple weapons, the weasels flee, shrieking.

Badger tells Toad,

‘Don’t pretend to be stupider than you are.’

Put a different way, don’t assume your children need you to do everything for them, because most times they will prove to be more capable than you might think.

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