“EldestGirl, why were you the only child not wearing your sunhat when I picked you up from school today?” I asked.
“I don’t like it, Mummy. It’s a bit embarrassing.”
You know what, fair enough. It’s bright pink (not her favourite colour), and I had hoped the fact that it had sun-activated designs that appeared in the sunshine would be enough to win her over, but she doesn’t like it, and actually, that’s OK. I remember as a kid the horrible feeling of having to wear something you hated. As I had picked it up (albeit an expensive brand and new, still with its labels on) in a charity shop, it’s no great loss. Additionally, YoungestGirl needs a new sunhat anyway, she can have the pink, flowery one, and EldestGirl can have a sparkling new one of her choice. It all works out.
No. You have not met my five year-old. She is normally a very well-behaved child, bright, reasonable and kind. But sometimes we have an incident. This one was known as HAT GATE.
“I still want it, Mummy,” she protested.
“But why?” I asked. “We can choose a nice new one for you. We can get one from the school shop, just like your friends’, or we can choose a bright yellow one – your favourite colour…”
What followed was what I can only describe as a full-hour long tantrum/sulk, as I painstakingly took her through Every Hat Available to Order on the Internet, and, once she had chosen an acceptable one, explained to her that the pink, flowery hat would now be YoungestGirl’s, and her hat would be the brand new one.
“NO NO NO NO NO NO!” said EldestGirl. “I have changed my mind. I want the old one tooooooooo….!”
At this point I got frustrated, told her I had had enough of this, and told her to go away. I came across her twenty minutes later, drawing a picture of me with my head on fire.
“Is that a picture of me, EldestGirl?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, ineffectively trying to shove it under her bottom.
“What’s that on my head?” I wondered. “Is it a crown?”
“Yes…” EldestGirl lied ineffectively, before deciding honesty was the best way forward. “No. It’s your head and it’s on fire because you shouted at me. And here is a picture of my broken heart. On the back is a picture of us loving each other which is how things could be if you LET ME KEEP MY HAT.”
“EldestGirl,” I said, patiently, “you are more than welcome to keep your hat. But you must wear it at school, and that means you don’t get a new hat, and YoungestGirl will have a new hat instead. We currently have one sunhat and two children. Somebody is going to wear the pink flowery hat, and somebody can have a brand new hat. I am letting you choose which you want because YoungestGirl doesn’t care.”
“I want the old hat.”
“Fine,” I said. “No problem. But you must wear it at school when it’s hot weather.”
“I don’t WANT TO,” affirmed EldestGirl, returning to colouring in the flames engulfing my head. She emblazoned the drawing with “I WANT MY HAT BACK.”
EldestGirl would like me to point out that she has come up with a solution for this. She is going to buy a hat (with her own money) that has My Little Ponies on it (so unfortunately it is not acceptable for school). So now we are in the situation where we have two hats, neither of which she is both willing and able to wear to school. And somehow YoungestGirl still doesn’t have a hat.