Justine Sless Presents Pains Sans Frontières (bread without borders)
The Playgroup Years
I intertwine the pre school years with the essence of Piaget’s cognitive theory. It becomes the Pain Sans Frontières bread without borders script. It’s a longbow, which when I draw it back and release into my Melbourne International Comedy Festival audience, feels like I am right on target.
Pre kids I used to eat crackling crunching bags of chips. Pre kids, I would peel back a whole mango and eat it, whilst making indiscriminate slurping sounds as the juice ran down my neck. James would stir the sugar in his coffee with such velocity, that the clanging sound was like the peal of church bells. The slap of noodle strands against our lips and faces as we scoffed on laskas, was not only messy, but also too loud for a sleeping new born babies’ ears.
The baby years were made up of tiny bowls, with Peter Rabbit motifs. These bowls were filled with mashed potatoes, puréed fruits and over cooked pastas - and so the culinary silence descended.
After what feels like a stretched out time of agonizing sleep deprivation, the culinary volume is turned up just a notch. The Rusk is introduced with much cooing and encouragement.
An infant will makes its own special imprint on a Rusk, as it gnaws, slobbers and sucks upon it.
The Rusk eater will also begin to bang their feeding utensils. They will begin to make chirrup song like sounds. A series of guttural noises will be made, indicating that that their favorite book be read to them, again and again and again.
These are Pain Sans Frontiér years. The culinary decibel is cranked up again.
Children everywhere in the developed world, reject, rebuff and repudiate the four corners of the loaf, their noises of dissent are akin to squawking gulls.
Piaget, the Swiss man who created the most influential theoretical framework on early childhood development, spent an enormous amount of time breaking up bits of bread and asking his children which was the bigger bit: the broken up bits or the chunk of bread.
All well and good Piaget, but couldn’t you have done just a bit of research into why there is almost universal refusal to consume the breads crust?
Our weekly playgroup gatherings continue, lasting much to my irritation for hours and hours.
Out of interest I line up the playgroup children and ask them:
Why don’t you eat your crusts?
They are just handles -said 3 year old Sam.
They don’t add nutritional value- Ruby, 3 1/2 of Preston.
Crusts? That’s not what will make my hair curl, that’s genetics –Thomas, a child that will probably be picked on at school for being a nerd.
A whiff of skepticism wafts over me during this time about the Piagets’ ages and stages theory.
I do a checklist, to see how my kids are scrubbing up against the Preoperational stage.
Sure enough though, they weren’t yet able to conceptualize abstractly and needed concrete physical situations. Objects were classified in simple ways, especially by important features.
To help guide them through this stage, I consistently give them a simple instruction and follow it up with a concrete physical situation, namely a weather report:
Get in the car – it’s boiling.
You won’t need a singlet today – it’s going to be quite humid.
Eat your crusts – or there will be no end to the drought.
For extra reinforcement, I advise them of the domestic task that I am undertaking and give them an estimated time of completion:
I’m just doing the dishes – give me five minutes.
I’m just mopping the floor I will be with you in 8 ½ minutes.
Mummy is just excavating the back yard, in order to create a tranquil space within suburban Preston, give us half an hour.
We are in the thick of the playgroup years and the weekly presentation of home baked items, reach giddy heights of competitiveness.
The freshly made fruit and chocolate loaf is devoured in an instant, but aligned with the admission that though it was lovely, it was a bit of a shame that the flour was not organic.
Vegetarian sausage rolls, were presented one week. These were greeted with oohs and ahhs and a chorus of : Yep, they taste just like Four and Twenties.
Then there was the Christmas cake bake off, an all day extravaganza that the CWA would have been proud of.
|Christmas Cake bake off.|
During the playgroup years, I realize that I have less time to commit to surface patrol. It dawns on me, that the real threat to modern families, are not unclean surfaces, but toys that boast over 400 pieces.
The spear like edges of these 400 pieces, are always lying in wait in darkened rooms. They snarl up the vacuum cleaner, from down the back of the couch and can always be found scattered, like confetti in hallways, as you carry in a weeks supply of shopping from Aldi.
The threat continues with the toys suitable for children aged 3 and over. These toys require gelignite, cordless drills and Swiss army knives to open their plastic shrouds and remove the twine attached to each limb of the toy. Once done the grand revelation of the much - coveted plastic item, turns out not be the toy of your child’s dreams, but just plain old disappointment – batteries not included.
The weekly playgroup gatherings go on for what feels like years. The recipes swapped are many, the cups of tea consumed are numerous. Our lament at the beginning of these years was that: the craft revival would be our salvation and the begetting of back yard chooks would bring a hereto unimagined quality, to our home baked items.
As the sun begins to set on our playgroup years, we bless our good fortune at being able to grow plentiful crops of lettuce in our veggie patches. We discover though, that the moral breakdown of society and the harmony of our nuclear families is under treat.
The affection that children receive before bed time, the stories read to them as they begin to get drowsy, the whines and petty squabbles of the day forgotten, as you lie next to them as they drift to sleep, is a special bonding moment.
Then the item which can tear a family asunder, has arrived.
The Bunk Bed - the bastardisation of domestic bliss.
The child who wins the right to the top bunk, no longer gets that cuddle before they sleep. The top bunk kid is no longer read to, as they drift into dreamland. Their brow is not smoothed as the worries and squabbles of the day are kissed away. Instead what happens, is a quick swinging motion as you half grab them, half squeeze their arm for balance, the groan of the self assembled bunk bed being far louder than the good night you say to them, as you back out of their room. You head quickly for the bottle of single malt, relieved that you have not incurred a bunk bed injury.
With this said, I try other ways to show my love to top bunk child. I mitigate the moral breakdown, via a firm agreement to play princesses with them and sing the diamond castle song from the Barbie movie, as if I am about to shed tears of joy. I believe it works.
All the playgroup mums begin applying for places at kindergartens. It is the final playgroup of the year, before the long summer begins. There is nostalgia in the air and talk of us all continuing on as a playgroup, during the four year old kinder year. We say this, even though we know it will be tricky finding a common day that we can all meet.
Then a shrill cry, breaks through the schmaltz. We all rush to the other room where the children have been playing. All at once children’s coats are gathered, toys are hastily put back into toy boxes, crumbs and cups put quickly onto the kitchen bench.
We all know at that moment, though it is not said, that we won’t meet again as a playgroup.
We will not meet again as playgroup, because the unimaginable has happened: one child has pissed into another child’s ukulele.