If you've ever seen the 1986 comedy film 'The Three Amigos' you'll be familiar with Steve Martin's famous line, 'It's like living with a six year old.'
When I was younger, my friend Gemma and I used to roll our eyes and say this every time we thought someone was behaving immaturely. Mostly, we just said it to each other and always in a stupid American accent.
I uttered that line so many times as a teenager but it's only now, 20 years later, that I actually know what living with a six year old is actually like.
I often see blogs called something similar to, '10 things I would tell my pregnant self'. These are generally centred around sleep deprivation, poo conversations and the mischievous antics of very little people. All are perfectly valid reading for expecting parents or those with babies and toddlers. I also see lots of literature based on parenting a teenager, which for the most part, I can't bring myself to read yet.
However, there doesn't seem to be many articles written about the joys and tribulations of raising post-toddler, pre-teen children. So I decided to write one about life with my six year old daughter, Susie.
Here is what I would tell my pregnant self about living with a six year old:
You don't have possessions anymore. Nothing actually belongs to you.
Make-up, jewellery, clothes, stationery - nothing is safe from Susie's hoarding hands. Most of my jewellery has been stashed away in pink containers in her room and I've given up trying to find it.
Hiding my treasured items is fruitless because nothing escapes the radar of a pilfering six year old. This became evident to me the day that Susie emerged from our spare room wearing my wedding dress (which had been carefully wrapped, boxed and put away) accompanied by her little friend who was modelling every handbag I own. They had been into the bathroom, opened a box of my tampons, removed the applicators and were wearing them as earrings. I later found the remaining contents of the box floating in the bath. Tampons do make excellent bath toys.
While six year olds enjoy making use of their parents' possessions, they don't always fully grasp the correct usage of them. I learned this one morning when I woke up to find Susie sitting on my bedroom floor painting her toenails. With my eyeliner.
I truly have no possessions anymore. John Lennon would be proud.
Nothing is Complicated
Inside the head of a six year old, the world is a delightfully uncomplicated place. There is good and bad, black and white, superheroes and villains. Messy political and global humanitarian problems can be solved by a six year old in as little as a few words.
One afternoon, Susie had some pressing questions about the Second World War. She wanted to know how it started, why so many people died (see on for six year old obsession with death) and how it ended. I explained all about Hitler and his invasion of other countries, Nazism and why the Allies retaliated. I was quite proud of my 1997 GCSE History knowledge. I ended by telling her about the Holocaust, how millions of innocent people were killed by the Nazis and that Hitler was at the head of it all.
When I had finished, Susie was quiet for an uncharacteristic moment. Then she said, 'Well I don't know where his mind was at, but he shouldn't have done that.'
You'll talk about death a lot.
I thought it was just Susie who was given to making countless enquiries about death. However, after voicing my concerns to friends, it seems that many six year olds are preoccupied with the topic. Take my friend, who one morning found her six year old scribbling away furiously on a piece of paper. She asked him what he was writing and he replied, 'I'm writing letters. To dead people.'
Perhaps it's a fascination with and anxiety about the unknown that preoccupies a six year old with death. Whenever I watch a film with Susie, we firstly have to ascertain which cast members have died since the film was made and those who are still with us. With a little help from Google, I am now fully up to date with the status of everyone who acted in Bed Knobs and Broomsticks, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Annie and many other children's films.
On earwigging at Susie's bedroom door during a play date, I discovered that six year olds also tend to play quite morbid games. I heard three sweet little girls playing, 'pretend you've broken your leg and your bone's sticking out', 'pretend you cracked your head open and your brain spilled out' and, perhaps the most insulting, 'pretend we're orphans and we like it'.
Your transformation into your own mother is now complete
It started gradually after Susie was born - a word here, a habit there. Six years on and I have now fully and irreversibly morphed into my mother.
On a daily basis her words fly out of my mouth - phrases such as; 'what did your last slave die of?'; 'mind your Ps and Qs'; 'do you do that at school? Well then don't do it here then' and (my personal favourite) 'what did I come upstairs for?'
It's taken six years but I have now perfected my mother's sigh of martyrdom and pained exhaustion whenever I sit for a moment on a chair or sofa.
Chasing a child who is munching on a packet of crisps around the living room while screaming, 'I've just hoovered!' is now as much a part of my daily life as it was my mother's.
You'll Wonder What Parents Did Before Google
Important questions such as 'why is the sky blue?' and 'what's the poorest country in the world?' are beyond my GCSE science and geography knowledge. A sneaky Google on my phone behind my back helps me retain my status as the font of all knowledge. Seriously, what did parents do before they had such technology to fall back on? I know, I know they looked it up in a book.
You'll be Made to Feel Stupid on a Regular Basis
It's not pleasant when my six your old knows more than I do about something. And yet it is a feeling I experience more and more often.
When she was studying dinosaurs at school, we decided to take her up to the Natural History Museum. While standing by the big dinosaur in the entrance hall, I read out its name from the display case.
'It's a Diplodocus', I said, pronouncing it Dip-lo-dok-us.
Susie rolled her eyes. 'Mummy, it's a dip-lo-dough-cus and it obviously ate tree leaves because it has a long neck.
It's like living with my own personal Hermione Granger.
It's like living with a six year old.