I am trying to gather things for a craft party NG is attending at the weekend when NW walks through the door. “There’s a strange boy at nursery,” I say to my husband, who has had a busy day, followed by a two and a half hour commute. “I think NG likes him. I need to speak to Jackie Paper.”
He puts his bag down, kisses me and gets a glass of water. “What?”
Jackie is the owner of the nursery and a very fair lady. I know if I told her that a boy named Hampton (I’ve never been entirely sure about surnames as first names, though Ryan as in Gosling is the obvious exception) has been insisting and then convincing the others that dragons exist, she would listen sympathetically. I fill NW in.
“It doesn’t sound too terrible to me,” he says. “Dragons are fun, aren’t they?”
“But I think NG has a little crush on him. Apparently he encourages all the children to believe that dragons are as common as, I don’t know … cats … and then gets them to pretend to be MAGIC dragons that can do things like fly, and cast spells and … um, shape shift. She actually said, ‘sometimes Hampton gets caught being a dragon’ like it was the best thing ever.” I gaze at him with a mix of fear and awe. “I mean, I’m not sure I want her first little boyfriend to be into, you know, magic, as in non-existent, fake stuff. Artificial. Made up.”
NW looks at me steadily. “I think you’re overreacting just a bit. And anyway, Dragons are made up.”
“Exactly,” I say, failing to find any ribbon or glue in the places they usually are. “NG is already confused about whether or not crisp packets can talk. Dragons and toddler boyfriends are complications we don’t really need.” I actually wring my hands.
NW sighs. “She’s not even three yet; I really don’t think we need to worry about her being corrupted by a boy her own age, even if he is into fire breathing.” He can see I’m not convinced. “OK. What else can she do at nursery that keeps her entertained?”
I have a think. The only thing NG ever really tells me she enjoys after her one day a week at nursery is eating raisins. And Pyjama Drama; she likes that. Oh, and gardening. “She likes watching things grow!” I exclaim. There is an allotment 15 minutes’ walk away and, “on Wednesdays, now it’s spring, her class walks in a line to look at the mud, which will – every key worker hopes fervently – eventually sprout things.”
“So it’s ok to walk in a crocodile but not be a dragon?” NW quips.
“That’s not actually funny in any way,” I say. “The garden is amazing for children, though. It’s full of spinny things and streamers and things they can hit to take their frustrations out and make noise.” I think of the Duchess of Cambridge and wonder aloud to NW whether or not she will bring George along to the Magic Garden she’s opening this week at Hampton Court.
“Oh yes,” he says. “I read about that. I think it’s got a dragon in it.”
“Oh,” I say.
“You still look worried,” he says, pouring a glass of wine and handing it to me.
I sigh. “It’s just this boy thing with Hampton. I know it’s stupid because she’s only two still and it means nothing but I’ve just realised there will be a day when we’ll have to deal with boyfriends. Or girlfriends. Whatever … and ‘those’ feelings with her.”
“Yep,” he says.
“And when that time comes, I know we’ll cope with it. It’s scary because it’ll be unchartered territory for all of us … but I suppose it’ll be fine.”
“Sort of … ‘Here be dragons’, you mean?”
“Very good,” I say and reach up to the cupboard over the sink because she is only two still and for tomorrow I need some string and sealing wax and other fancy stuff.
KEY TO CHARACTERS
Characters are abbreviated as follows:
NW – not William (husband and father)
NG – not George (daughter, sister and two and three quarter year old)
NC – not Charlotte (son, brother and seven month old)
NL – not Lupo (a Labrador)
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