I have decided, from now on, I am not going to make any attempt to encourage my children to make their own choices, based on their own personalities. No, from now on, they are going to have exactly the same of everything. Forever.
Last week, in a buoyant mood (bloody hell, I must have been), I took the girls with me to the supermarket. I needed to get a few things for the fridge, but I also needed to buy a birthday present for a friend's daughter.
In the toy aisle, various things were vying for my children's attention, but when they saw some boxed (yes, cruel I know) unicorns they fell instantly in love.
The unicorns were affordable, and I very rarely treat the children to anything, so I agreed they could have a set of unicorns, pink for Ava, blue for Ru.
But then Ruby saw something else. A very fluffy, very small pink dog. She asked for it immediately, but I wasn't about to buy everything in the shop, so I said to her: "Ruby, you can have this dog or you can have the unicorn, not both. Which one would you like?"
"Dog!" she said with absolute certainty.
"Right. You're sure? You will have the dog, and Ava will have a unicorn?"
She was kissing the dog, so I put the unicorn set back, and picked up a single pink one for Ava, who was mightily pleased (it came with a comb and a brush and even some hair clips).
Well, Ruby loved that dog. She clasped it all the way round the supermarket, and cried when I said I needed to take it for a second to scan it and pay. She clutched it all the way back to the car, and hugged it all the way home.
Inside the house, with Ruby still holding her dog, Ava excitedly asked if I could get her new unicorn out of its box. So I took it out of the shopping bag and began the extraordinarily complicated process of removing the toy from its packaging.
At which point, Ru came over and said: "Mummy? Wez my blooo one?"
"Ruby, do you remember in the shop, I asked you if you wanted a unicorn or a dog? And you said you wanted the dog?"
Ru looked at the fluffy pink dog in her hand and then, with more sadness than anger, she let it drop to the floor. Her bottom lip came out. She welled up, and then she started to weep.
This was no tantrum, it was a genuine tragedy to her. She clearly had not understood the question, and now all she could understand was that Ava had a unicorn – and she did not.
It went on all afternoon. She was GUTTED. The dog (who was clearly to blame) was placed in a small dark cupboard to think about what he had done. Meanwhile, Ruby repeatedly sobbed as she watched Ava combing and brushing and styling her unicorn's mane.
At every given opportunity, of course, when Ava's back was turned, Ruby took her chance to have a go. But Ava would see her and get upset. Then I'd ask Ava to share nicely, because it would be a sweet big sisterly thing to do, and she'd let Ruby hold her unicorn for a nanosecond before saying "my turn!" and taking it back.
If I could have gone back to the shop that afternoon, I would have. Even after two hours the whole thing was driving me crazy. But it had to wait until the following morning (Ruby's first words when she woke up were "Had unicorn?").
The dog went back, a new identical unicorn was purchased, and I got home in time for Dan to set off for work. I found the girls in the living room.
"Look Ruby!" I said, "I've got you a unicorn!"
I held the box out for her. But her bottom lip came out again and she looked sadly at the floor. "Ru? I'll get it out of the box for you."
I took a pair of scissors and quickly hacked at the packaging, wanting this whole debacle to be over as soon as possible. I tried to hand Ru her brand new unicorn, but she looked away from me towards Ava – or rather what was in Ava's hand.
You see, by now it had to be THAT unicorn. THAT was the unicorn that Ava had and she didn't have. Nothing else would do.
I am so pleased to say that there are no flies on Ava. She leapt at her chance to swap (she'd already lost half the hair clips that came with the first one), and she got to give another unicorn its first ever hair brush.
And Ruby? She hugged her sister, and she hugged that now rather mangy unicorn, and peace was restored.
So yes. Everything the same, from now on, and forever more.
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