Tuesday, 11 September 2007

The Princess and the Palace

One sunny afternoon after nursery I take my daughter to Kensington Palace. We drive past it every day in the car and I have seen the bouquets through the trees. A decade ago I went to have a look at the reef of flowers circling the palace and took a swim in the sadness. Before marriage, before children. I could have stayed forever surrounded by such melancholy.

I had asked my daughter if she wanted to see the Princess’s Palace. She shot back her “yes” so fast that it made me smile. What could interest her more than a trip to a princess’s palace? “Which princess?” she asked. “The princess who died ten years ago. I replied. “What happened?” “She died in a car crash.” I said. “I think it’s right to tell the truth about these things. You can’t go wrong telling the truth. It’s when you don’t that the trouble starts. I have no problem telling my daughter about death. There’s only one I couldn't tell her about. And that’s probably just because I can’t yet face the chronology of life myself.

The sun bears down on us as we park near to the park gate and walk in. It is a little like approaching a palace. All paths lead there. It looms as you walk among the trees. We stand looking at the pictures and the flowers for a while and are then drawn through the open gates.

“So the princess died and everyone put flowers on the railings so they could get happy again?” my daughter asks. “Yes” I say. I find she often puts things better than I can.

I cheat, taking her to the shop rather than paying the money to go on the tour. She is fascinated by the jewellery on offer, the pictures of the princess in her tiaras. We argue when I won’t buy her a princess doll. It’s a rule I have not to buy something at every place we go to.

I think she is a bit disappointed overall; expected something more. Certainly a toy. Once she has got over her sulk she asks “Did the princess have a fairy godmother?”

“I don’t think so” I say, “Not a fairy one anyway”.

She looks dispirited for a moment and then brightens and runs off into the shade of the trees.

49 comments:

Tina said...

Children always put things better than we parents. They speak from their hearts and we speak from, um, elsewhere.

Stay at home dad said...

Yes, it doesn't take long from not being able to speak to expressing things eloquently.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

How beautiful life can be in the eyes of a child.

Crystal xx

@themill said...

I sometimes think children have a sixth sense and they have a way of leading the conversation to just the right place at just the right time.
Welcome back.

Suki said...

"Child is the father of man." Whoever said that wasn't very wrong, I daresay.

Thinking about Princess Diana's death brings back so many memories, not all linked directly to her death. It's.. weird. I just hope the little one will grow up to understand why the Princess in the Palace was loved as much as she was.

Hayley said...

Oh to be a kid again, but with the life experience to go with it...!

HayleysPerfect.blogspot.com

merry weather said...

Glad you're back with your wise words!

This post makes me think of - the marvellous lightness of being young!

Personally, I have recently had trouble answering my kids when they asked - has anyone ever crashed in a tube train? - just as we were boarding one...

Jan said...

Hello again SAHD!
Looking forward to returning to Blogland and catching up with you!

Stay at home dad said...

I know CJ. You've said it, I've said it, everyone's said it. But it's still pretty amazing.

Stay at home dad said...

Thank you @TM. Yes, I'm sure you're right. It's an education.

Hello Suki. That sounds about right. I like the generic theory in relation to the popularity of princesses.

Hello Hayley. Mutually exclusive though surely?

Merry thank you and hello yourself. Yes, that might be a tough one!

Hello Jan. Yes and where have you been?!

Suffolkmum said...

My daughter cried bitterly at a picture of the Queen in an ordinary hat and coat. Life is so sparkling and glittering with promise for them - I hate to feel they're doomed to disappointment. But then, I'm another melancholic!

Stay at home dad said...

I don't think they are necessarily going to be diappointed are they Suffolk Mum? Anything is possible. Or at least many things.

mutterings and meanderings said...

I thought you were leaving the city SAHD?

Elsie Button said...

oohh you could have bought your daughter a rubber at the very least. you did take her to the shop afterall. oops sorry, too much cider for me, i will shut up.

kids are amazing though. i remember i had to analyse a painting in my history of art OU course and i showed the painting to some of the kids (7 year olds) i used to teach at school and asked them what they thought and one of the kids came out with the most amazing thing that I hadn't even seen/thought of and my tutor was well impressed when i passed the comment off as my own.

Stay at home dad said...

M&M, we would like to, but we have been unable to sell so far...

Elsie, I call it character-building. We are going back tomorrow and she will get it then. Now we know where all your ideas come from! Hope all is well.

Elsie Button said...

Morning SAHD, sorry about my comment... i hope i don't turn into one of these parents who completely spoils their child and buys them everything. it could easily happen. I keep buying Betty stuff now that she doesn't need and she isn't even asking for it! tom despairs sometimes. i always manage to come up with a concrete argument why betty needs a new toy etc. (Betty doesn't even like toys - she prefers boring random colourless household objects). i need to take note.

Lovely that you are buying the doll though - imagine owning a doll from a princess's palace - your daughter will cherish it and love it!

Reluctant Memsahib said...

Lovely. Lovely because we can briefly dip back into our own childhoods whilst our own kids enjoy theirs. When I was in England recently I took my kids to London for a day, my youngest was especially enthralled by Buck Palace: ''oh wow mama, to think the Queen is just there'' she said, pointing at the palace. Kids infect us with their unininhibited joy of a thing, otherwise we'd become jaded old cynics.

Stay at home dad said...

Morning Elsie. No, not at all. I just have a parsimonious side to me; my wife said in the same situation she would have bought it...


Hell RM. Yes I was a jaded old cynic once! I always mean to go on the BP tour but haven't got round to it yet.

DJ Kirkby said...

She sounds like such a little sweetie. I love your policy to NOT buy something at every place you go to, we have the same rule. Please, please would you add a email notification button to your blog so I don't have to worry about missing any of your posts? You can get one by following the link from my blog.

dgibbs said...

I find myself trying not to buy the son something every single place we go. Failing miserably so far.

Omega Mum said...

You do write so movingly. I'm sensing undercurrents here. This seems like the prelude to something much bigger....Glad you're back again. Was getting worried.

Stay at home dad said...

Yes, if they expect something it's no longer a present.... I'll do that DJK, thanks for the tip.

Hello DGibbs. Just say no! (And then grit your teeth and prepare for the looks...)

Thanks very much OM. Yes, my pace is very slow nowadays. I could learn something about regularity from you. No, unfortunately there's nothing bigger. Wish there was!

Omega Mum said...

I eat a lot of prunes, SAHD. I think it helps.

Jan said...

I so agree with you re telling children the truth, although in many ways, they actually " amass" the truth for themselves.
I know I did as a child, often hiding under the table listening to grownup converstations or reading people's expressions or listening to the timbre of their voices...

Stay at home dad said...

OM, I thought it was just moral fibre...

Yes Jan, quite true. A child will get at the truth however roundabout the process may be...

lady macleod said...

Diana could have used a fairy godmother eh? But I think your little one is in good hands with her Dad.

Stay at home dad said...

She certainly could, your ladyship. Thank you. Yes, I will try my best, although sometimes difficult getting into those tights...

athomedaddy said...

After a recent trip to New York City, my wife and I realized that the person who had the most fun was our 8 month old daughter. She didn't get stressed out by everything, she just watched the world go by...

Livvy U. said...

I have returned several times to this post, and only tonight realised I'd never commented.

That's because I was thinking so hard about it I forgot to. I didn't, did I - or am I going mad?

Anyway enough rambling.

I keep thinking about you and your described life, SAHD, remembering bits of your posts. I thought this was a good sign of your success and that I'd better tell you. x

Pig in the Kitchen said...

I also think you should tell them about death, half truths are bad. Thought we'd lost you SAHD, glad you're back
Pigx

Stay at home dad said...

Hello At home daddy. Yes, I am sure that was probably the case!; so intensive at that age, leaves not much time for anything else. I like your incipient blog. Hope you find time to keep it going.

Thank you Livvy: for coming back and telling me that. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about these things too...

Hello Pig. No not lost me yet! (A bit worrying in the context of death...) Not been blogging much recently due to a lot of heavy lifting.

carrie said...

Oh, I wish she would've had a fairy godmother.

The world lost a one-of-a-kind soul on that day. I remember my parents were in London the day that happened and it was very difficult for them after they returned to the states, I think they were feeling more connected, in a way, than others over here.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

heavy lifting? Oh right, have you moved? For a minute you meant a hernia...
Pigx

Stay at home dad said...

Hi Carrie. Cynic that I am, I was quite affected by it too.

No, haven't moved, Pig. just been up to Big Yellow Storage. No hernia as yet.

Motheratlarge said...

Oh, SAHD. As Omega Mum and others say, you write so movingly. It would be nice if at some point you entrust us with more of your story.

Nice title, too.

Stay at home dad said...

Thanks twice over, M@L. You mean you want me to reveal my superpowers?!

Frog in the Field said...

Dear SAHD,
Your posts are very poignant, always.
You are a true lyricist.

DJ Kirkby said...

Hi, you've got a 'widget error' apparently and I've been asked by feedblitz to ask you to re-create your...something...so I can subscribe to you by email.

Stay at home dad said...

Thank you Frog. Very much appreciated.

Ouch DJK, sounds painful. I will have a go, thanks for letting me know...

Stay at home dad said...

Should be fixed now DJK.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

OK, time for you to come in from the nether world and post again, please.

Stay at home dad said...

Pathetically infrequent now, aren't I. Will be in touch again shortly. Thanks for asking, Wakeup...

Jan said...

Have you cut your hair and had a shave and put on a suit and gone back to work with a briefcase, by any chance??

Stay at home dad said...

NO!!! Certainly not, Jan.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

I would quite like to know about your superpowers. I've often suspected that men have powers of which we are not aware, and all that 'i can't find the jam in the fridge' routine is just a ruse.
(been drinking, should never blog when drinking ;-))
Look, when i do the smiley face followed by the close bracket sign, it looks as tho i have a double chin. Sigh.

@themill said...

Too much rugby and tennis to watch?
Next instalment please.

Stay at home dad said...

Pig, you are very entertaining after a drink. Sorry about the double chin! Coming soon - the superpowers of Stayathomedadman. Er...

ATM. Quite right! But that's still no excuse.

Kirsty said...

Oh, to have the innocence back....

Stay at home dad said...

I think it probably does come back, Kirsty, when you're older and no longer have any reason to be cynical...