The last 18 months have run thus: moved from Amsterdam to London, started new job, quit new job after a year to start other new job with more money. Quit other new job to look after a kid and make cash flogging family on the Internet. Lost a bit of hair. Bought a house and currently live in a bit of a stabby part of East London with an outside toilet (there is one inside, too, but you get the retro picture).
But that’s just the self-absorbed adult bit. The urchin has been carted from pillar-to-post, uprooted from Amsterdam – the land of stroopwaffels and currently the 7th happiest place in the world to live – to London (so far from the list you wonder if the list was compiled by a disgruntled list compiler living in a Cockfosters 10-bed house share having watched all of House of Cards in one sitting).
London is great but she’s a cruel mistress – snuffle someone’s armpit for 10 minutes on the Tube and peek at house prices and you’re genuinely considering scarpering to Bognor Regis or somewhere else you can quietly drink milky tea on the coast in a shellsuit.
But the West London daycare we stumbled across was great; it was where Mae learned to share (while holding very tightly to shared object, whispering menacingly ‘shaaaaare’) and started speaking – mainly telling me I had a big bottom and a spiky hoo ha. Happy times.
It was around this time, though, that she started calling for my Mum (‘Oma’ in Dutch) in the middle of the night instead of me, her mama. She was unsettled, she was unwell 95% of the time with some lurgy of doom or another and she was with my parents two days and nights of the week – it was, all in all, a heartbreaking time for all of us.
She was then hauled out East, away from the one friend, Maya, who had anchored her; away from ‘the house with the green door’ she thought was home and into a fixer-upper in Leyton with an outside bog and a relentless buzzing noise no one could locate.
As parents we fiercely want what’s best for our kids(s). When we can’t deliver that for reasons outside of our control, guilt drills into your every quiet moment. These seeming failures range from a day with your kid strapped to the iPad because you have to work through to uprooting the little one more times than she’s worked out how to count to.
So over the Easter weekend, we decided to allay 18 months of parental guilt by redecorating Mae’s room; nay, not redecorating, transforming it into a veritable palais.
But it was Mae’s palais. It wasn’t about us; it wasn’t about some dove grey paint job that I was yearning for embellished with achingly cool monochrome accessories – this was about her imagination running wild. According to research by the ace folk at Dulux it’s about confidence; kid’s get a kick out of being ‘art director’ of their own room.
“Children typically create little things, but the bedroom is the first real, permanent thing that they can influence,” says expert Developmental Psychologist, Dr. Sam Wass. “Involving a child helps them to establish their own inner space and the image that they want to project to others.”
What did she want? Clouds, blue sky and a small Tilly the dinosaur by the plug socket (so he could stay warm). So that’s what she got. We whacked on some 90s tunes, slipped into some jogging bottoms from 1996 (who are these people that look sexy wafting about in nothing but an oversized shirt, thong and paint brush?) and started slapping that paint on the walls with the (much-needed) help of this very handy YouTube Dulux video.
While Mae was involved in the creative brainstorming process (as is her want with most things; sandwiches through to spoon choices), we left her with Oma so we could finish the job without relentless questioning ‘why is Papa angry? What’s wrong with Mama’s hair?’
The result? Exultation, gurning smiles, excitedly pointing at ‘clouds’ and saving the biggest squeal for Tilly the dinosaur by the plug socket – which took all of 3 minutes to do, compared the day’s work on the rest. But hey, that’s the toddler’s way. While we still have an outside bog and the rogue buzzing persists, this Easter is possibly the first time we all felt at home. Perhaps the first time in 18 months that Mae realised we’re here to stay – the first time the clouds cleared, allowing for a little more blue sky.
The paint we used was from the Dulux Endurance+ range, which has been specially designed for kid’s bedrooms because it’s 20 times tougher than usual paints – think ketchup resistence/ coloured pencil-proof. We followed this YouTube video to get Mae’s dreamy finish but freestyled when it came to Tilly the dinosaur. (Prey to God your kid doesn’t like something complex like Octonauts – wouldn’t know where to begin there.) If you’re looking to do something cool with your kid’s room, Dulux has a great batch of videos showing how to recreate loads of different looks from a starry sky for budding astronauts to a tropical jungle-scape for explorers @DuluxUK #kidsbedrooms