I’m rather prone to accidental crockery breakage. The consequence is that our kitchen cupboard is full of random mismatched half-sets. I pretend it’s a style choice. A year or so back, when we were down to two cereal bowls between four of us, I went to buy some replacement bowls. The rather lovely bowls you see above caught my eye in Matalan (for those of you in the US, Matalan is something like the clothing and homewares sections of Target).
I couldn’t decide which colour to go for, and then came up with the fabulous idea of getting four different colours, so that we could each have our own colour bowl. I was thrilled to bits. I arrived home and proudly showed them my purchase. Everyone agreed that they were indeed very lovely cereal bowls.
“Right,” I said, “Who wants which colour? No fighting now!”
They looked a little confused, and I’m pretty sure there were some sideways glances between them. Unperturbed, I turned to my son, “Ok, well because your special plate when you were little was yellow, I thought you might like the yellow bowl? Yes?”
“Um, ok,” he said.
I was a little disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm, but carried on. I turned to Neil, “I don’t know why, but I just thought of you for the green one, is that ok?” I smiled broadly at him.
“Fine with me!” He said, clearly feigning some enthusiasm to please me.
Just two bowls left, who would end up with which one? “Right,” I said to my daughter, “Do you want the purple one or the red one?”
“I really don’t mind mum.” Ok, there were definitely some sideways glances now.
I ignored the glances. “Well I really like the red one,” I said, “So if you don’t mind, I’ll have the red one, and you have the purple one?”
I was a little perplexed by their reactions. I checked again that they all liked the bowls, and they assured me that they definitely did. Oh well.
The next day I caught Neil eating cereal in the red bowl. MY bowl. “Oops!” I said, “You’ve accidentally got the wrong bowl! Yours is the green one, remember?”
“Oh, er, yes, sorry.”
Over the next several months, there were many more oopses from me, not just with Neil, with all three of them. “Oops, you’ve taken the green bowl out, let me get you the yellow one…”, “Oops, the red bowl is in the washing-up, but I haven’t had any cereal, who was it?”, “Oops, yours is the purple one remember?” I couldn’t understand it. How hard was it to remember a colour?!
And then one day, after a particularly harrowing morning of three bowl errors, it hit me…
Nobody cares about the colour allocations! I sought my son out for confirmation, “Tell me honestly, do any of you care about the bowl colour allocations?”
He shook his head, “No.”
“Not at all?”
“Not the tiniest bit.” He hesitated, then took a deep breath, “Why does it matter what colour one we use?”
There, he had said it. Wow. They weren’t a bunch of numpties who couldn’t remember their colour. I was the numpty for thinking it mattered. I guess they didn’t want to hurt my feelings by telling me outright, so they left it for me to figure out. It just took me a really long time. I was so set on the idea that we each needed to have our own colour bowl that I hadn’t even considered there might be another way of doing it. A random way, where it doesn’t matter which one we use. I had to laugh at myself for being so slow to cotton on. And I’m now laughing at myself for suddenly realising that there is a life lesson in this post; I thought I was just writing about bowls.
I wonder why it might be that allocating colours mattered to me, but not to anyone else. I’ve always felt like my life is fairly chaotic, and I think I try to bring in little bits of order where I can to compensate, so maybe it’s that. Or maybe my head is still in the zone of thinking my kids are little, because I’m pretty sure you’d have a colour allocation with small children. Or maybe something else. Since that moment of revelation I’ve stopped trying to enforce the colour allocations with them, but I can’t get past it for myself. I still always feel a little disappointed when I see them eating out of the wrong bowl, especially if it’s the red bowl, because the red bowl is MY bowl damn it!
Next time I’m buying four bowls of the same colour.
I’m not convinced however that I’m alone here, so please help me by voting in the bowl poll below…