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Caroline Verdon: My son won’t let me relive my childhood

Chinese themed day at Ballacottier School.'Shadow puppet theatre.
Chinese themed day at Ballacottier School.'Shadow puppet theatre.
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One of the most fun things about having a child was going to be reliving my own childhood vicariously through them.

Or so I thought. About a month ago, I bought our toddler Arthur my absolute favourite childhood book - ‘The Jolly Postman’ by Allan and Janet Ahlberg. It’s got everything - a lovely magical story, beautiful innocent illustrations and a bit of a quirk. It tells the story of this postman and the post that he delivers on his route. He’s delivering to all of the favourite fairy tale creatures - the three bears, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood - you get the gist. Each double page spread has an envelope on it that you can open and inside is a letter that you can take out and read. As a child it was one of my treasured possessions. I took such delight in opening each piece of post and reading it and seeing how the fairy tales were all intertwined. I couldn’t wait to buy it for Arthur so he too could experience the magic. I jumped too soon - aged three, he is pulling out the letters with all the delicacy of a bull in a china shop and putting them back in the incorrect envelopes all willy nilly. The Jolly Postman has since ‘gone on holiday’ to the back of our wardrobe.

We’ve spent a lot of this week in Ross-on-Wye. My auntie turns 70 in October and so we’ve hired a huge house that sleeps about a kajillion and has room for all of my family so we can celebrate together. My Arthur turned three the other week and when we arrived at the house, he was presented with a big present from his cousins and it contained one of the best games ever. Hungry hippos. We never owned it when I was a kid and so at friends’ houses it was the first toy I would seek out to play. I loved it. Arthur hadn’t seen it before but raced to get it out of the box and him and three of his cousins gathered round to excitedly gobble the red and yellow balls up. Well they were so rough with it that the balls flew everywhere. Under a sofa, behind a radiator - one even ended up in a cup of coffee. Cue me commando crawling around to try and retrieve them all (whilst Googling to see if you can buy replacement packs of balls just in case). Why can’t they play gently?!

The other thing I loved when I was a child was make-believe. One of my best presents ever was a set of hand puppets. My Dad then found some old offcuts of wood and made me a table top puppet theatre and I would spend hours and hours putting on plays for everyone and anyone that I could force to sit down for long enough. Plays about policemen, picnics, birthdays, literally anything I could think of. I really enjoyed not only making them up but also putting on different voices. When Arthur was born I bought some hand puppets. One is stripy yellow and purple and has huge googly eyes and a bright blue moustache and the other is blue and pink with green fluffy hair and long eyelashes. The first I’ve named ‘Monsieur Moustache’ and the second ‘Madam Le Fluff’. Arthur hated them as a baby. I had hoped that as he got older he’d learn to appreciate them. In the last three years I’ve added to the collection and we now have a fox, a wombat, a cat, two dogs and a monkey. They rarely come out and, as far as Arthur is concerned, they live in the coffee table. About two weeks ago I walked into the lounge and he had them all out over the floor. Hugely excited I ran to the cupboard under the stairs and pulled out this cheap cardboard puppet theatre I’d bought in the sales in January. He was finally going to love something that I loved! I dashed back and put it together, not wanting to miss the attention window. He played with it for a bit until I went to make us both a drink. When I returned he’d pulled the eye off Monsieur Moustache and had found a pen and managed to draw on the theatre. I’m running out of space in the wardrobe.