I have discovered, to my horror, that I live with at least one lawyer. My life has become a complicated series of negotiations, one continuous and heroic effort to leave no loopholes, and tie each instruction tighter than a straitjacket buckle. My beloved lawyer is all of 6 years old, yet she already has the logical powers of a superhuman devil-lawyer at her disposal. I dread the teenage years.
I don’t feel fully equipped for the struggle. I still make simple, rookie mistakes like saying “Yes, you can have a biscuit” and not realising until she turns up happily swinging a whole bucket of biscuits that I neglected to say “but just one, ok?” I allowed her to go downstairs at bedtime to collect her beloved and indispensable soft toy, Rosie and it was only 10 minutes later when she hadn’t returned, that I realised my mistake. I found her struggling to carry an entire carload of soft toys, and greeting my reproach with wide eyed innocence – “but you said I could have 7 toys in bed.” Notwithstanding the fact that Rosie (who is the latest addition to our polyester menagerie) is HUGE and fills the bed all on her own. She is perfectly right, I did, many months ago, draw the line at 7 soft toys in the bed at bedtime, lest we lose her under a soft toy drift the size of Mt Kosciuszko. But back in those innocent days, her toys were more on the molehill scale. Rosie is a mountain all on her own.
I am slowly learning that every instruction must be couched in the most precise, impeccable and impenetrable logic, covering every conceivable situation and drawing every possible loophole tightly closed. I should be used to this – it’s the way my husband likes to debate things. But it’s not entirely his fault. 6 & 7 year-olds simply think differently. Terry Pratchett’s inimitable teacher, Susan Sto Helit, said it best: “You soon learned that ‘No one is to open the door of the Stationery Cupboard’ was a prohibition that a seven-year-old simply would not understand. You had to think, and rephrase it in more immediate terms, like, ‘No one, Jason, no matter what, no, not even if they thought they heard someone shouting for help, no one – are you paying attention, Jason? – is to open the door of the Stationery Cupboard, or accidentally fall on the door handle so that it opens, or threaten to steal Richenda’s teddy bear unless she opens the door of the Stationery Cupboard, or be standing nearby when a mysterious wind comes out of nowhere and blows the door open all by itself, honestly, it really did, or in any way open, cause to open, ask anyone else to open, jump up and down on the loose floorboard to open or in any other way seek to obtain entry to the Stationery Cupboard, Jason!’ ”
In the end, of course, we will have to draw a line and challenge our 6 year old to work with the spirit of the law, rather than challenge the letter of it. But I fear our little lawyer will find her own ways around that one!
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