We were planning a visit to Hampton Court Palace, the residence of Henry the VIII. I e-mailed my aunt who lives close by: “the plan is to be there at 10, have a look round the house and then have some lunch. I understand they have a maze there, with any luck perhaps the children will get lost…
We arrived at Hampton Court and got a wonderful welcome from the staff, not least because Arun was in his wheelchair. As a result doors were opened and queues jumped to get into the more popular areas. As we entered the great hall, some actors were playing out a scene in amongst the tourists involving King Henry and his soon to be bride, Anne Boleyn.
Anne screeched at the King in a shrill, angry tone and stormed past us. The King followed after her at a pace roaring at the top of his voice something about an “insufferable and intolerable woman!”
Little Meri, who is a tender three, was standing beside me holding my hand. As the King rampaged by, no more than two feet from us, she practically leapt into my arms, rigid with fear. Her big brown eyes were wide with terror and concern was etched across her brow.
“Don’t worry,” I comforted her. “It’s not real. They’re just actors. They’re just playing and pretending.”
“Why was the King shouting? Where has he gone?” Tears were welling up in her eyes. Confusion and worry were making her bottom lip tremble.
“It’s just acting,” I said. A blank look.
I decided that lying was the best option, “It’s OK Meri. The Queen was a bit naughty and the King was very angry with her. He’s taken her to her room for a bit of a telling off and to settle down.”
This sort of made sense to my three year old but it was clearly a very interesting event because she spent the rest of the afternoon explaining what had happened to my highly amused uncle and aunt.
In Meri’s little world the fight was all too real. Acting was not something that she understands. And whilst she has had her fair share of raised voices directed at her, I don’t think she’s ever seen two adults arguing at full tilt. Despite her toddler game playing and testing of boundaries, as far as she was concerned grown-ups always play it straight and her little mind clearly couldn’t process the difference between a scene in a play and real life. To her the King and Queen she had just seen were real, living breathing people, something that was reinforced a few minutes later when we saw the imposing portrait of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein.
It dramatically illustrated the moral maze that faces modern parents. With so much conflict, violence and sexual imagery prominent in every walk of life, it really made me reflect on how I need to somehow find a path through that doesn’t molly coddle her but still preserves the innocence and tenderness of her young mind.
And as for the real maze in the gardens at Hampton, Arun and I along with my uncle and aunt found our way through it without any real problems. Clare and Meri, however, did manage to get well and truly lost. I’m sure this is a metaphor for something but I’m not quite sure what…
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the blogger and do not necessarily represent the views of Dad.info.