Thursday, 1 May 2008

Mummy on the Edge - Families Mag May/June 2008

May June 08
Mummy on the Edge
Angelina Melwani treads the boards and discovers Newton’s 2nd Law.

It’s been a very busy few months for our household of two. Two weeks before my end of term and the performances of the musical I had been rehearsing for the past year or so, I lost my voice. Completely. I resorted to using a whistle to grab Mini-Me’s attention. “WHOOOOOOO!!!!! Breakfast time. WHOOOOOOO!!!! Brush your teeth WHOOOOOO!!! Pick up these books right now please.” In the absence of the ability to raise my voice, I raised my eyebrows and sometimes Mini-Me’s hair, when my eyes popped out of their sockets; I tell you, the non-verbal communication I’m always preaching to my Sing and Sign mummies and daddies reached whole new level. As did the fatigue of daily teaching, evening rehearsals and high-anxiety nights. Muteness gave way to Mariella Frostrup-like huskiness and the full use of my vocal chords eventually prevailed.

Mini-Me was insistent about coming to watch her mother on stage but the performance was very long and very late. So I took her to Willow’s Farm in St Albans in the mistaken belief that it would tire her out enough for her to want a late afternoon nap. We saw lazy piglets, little lambs, baby hamsters and fluffy chicklets. We participated in the external Easter Bunny Hunt in the freezing and biting wind and watched in disbelief as nutty parents allowed their children to dip their hands get wet, panning for gold. When my ears, nose and fingers had completely lost all sensation (Mini-me was warmly mummified), we took cover in the arena to watch a show where a woman with a West Country accent animated some farm animal puppets with her hand and made every one sing (apart from me). I wasn’t really concentrating because I was watching the flapping tent-like roof and cosmically ordering it to stay attached to the building. We ate an adequate lunch in the cafĂ© and I let her run around in “Woolly Jumpers”, Willow Farm’s Piccadilly Circus-like soft play area, while I downed a coffee and watched those brave enough to freefall down the vertical slide. By the time we came back home, it was time for me to leave, utterly knackered, for the theatre. Mini-me did not actually have a nap in the end which meant that the trip to Willow’s Farm had totally defeated its purpose. The feat of staying up till 11 without grumpiness was therefore even more miraculous! Mini-me told me the next day, “Mummy when I saw you singing on stage I had happy tears.” And that gave me happy tears, too. Although treading the boards felt more like walking the plank, I wanted to do it to inspire Mini-me and make her proud of her mum. I think it worked.

On a rare, mild day, we ventured to the Science Museum (3 six-year olds and 2 grown-ups) to experience the recently re-vamped Launch Pad. The website’s suggested 60 minutes wasn’t enough at all. Like a camel, carrying my banana-laden handbag, 2 kiddie backpacks, 2 puffy coats, my coat and a plastic bag full of drinks and sandwiches, I marshalled them from exhibit to exhibit, methodically trying to explain how, why and what we were looking at. All the while our charges spun wheels, pressed buttons, picked up lentils from the floor of the pulley demonstration and stuffed them in their pockets, waved their hands in front of heat-sensitive cameras and vied over giant bubble wands, not listening to me AT ALL. I gave myself a headache trying to get them to imbibe some knowledge to accompany all these experiences and it felt as futile as trying to stuff a tissue into a drinking straw. That was a lesson for me and giving up (which I did, about half an hour in) was the right thing to do. After all, the whole point of the Launch Pad is to get kids involved with science, enjoy it, have fun with it and encourage them to question it; not necessarily there and then, but somewhere and at some point. We watched a twenty minute show about rockets led by a dryly comical “Explainer” (that’s what the staff are called) who exploded a tube of Pringles and dabbled with a naked flame. Exciting stuff. I whispered the answers to the questions to the children and poked them to raise their hands and answer; and volunteered to be pushed on a wheeled chair to demonstrate Newton’s 2nd Law. The things I do for Mini-Me and her friends. What’s Newton’s 2nd Law, I hear you ask. I’m not going to tell you, you’ll have to whiz down to Kensington with your own Mini-yous and find out yourself.

Angelina Melwani runs Sing and Sign baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey, Stanmore and Rickmansworth. More info at