Anita's Haven

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ACTIONS & WORDS – story time

on 18/02/2015

PAULA THE POLITE 

 
Little Paula had always been a polite girl. There never was a ‘here you are’ that went without her saying ‘thank you’, she never joined a conversation without beginning with ‘excuse me’, never did she ask for anything without starting with ‘can I’ and ending with ‘please’. Of course, she also knew the word ‘sorry’, but, being so perfect and all, she never actually had to say it.

Being almost six, she was quite the miracle child with all her politeness, and was therefore known among her family and friends as Paula the Polite. Paula the Polite was often patted on her head and considered a perfect little princess by all who knew her.

When Paula’s parents told her she would be getting a little brother, she politely said, ‘ That’s so wonderful!’ After all, she was almost 6 and it was only proper she’d get a little brother or a sister whom she could teach to be as polite as she was. And as mummy’s belly grew bigger and bigger, Paula politely told her, ‘Mummy, you are beautiful!’ and asked, ever so politely, ‘can I, please, touch your belly?’ And when daddy explained she would now have to share with her brother, she politely said, ‘But of course!’ And when little Jeremy was brought home, she politely said, ‘He’s so cute!’

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When it was time for her mother to go back to work, Paula and Jeremy stayed with their grandma. One day grandma decided to make Paula’s favourite cake since Paula had politely said ‘Can I, please, have that yummy strawberry cake, granny?’, with just about the biggest smile and brightest twinkle in her eye. Now, which grandma could possibly say ‘no’ to that? But this cake was complicated, so grandma said she needed Paula’s help with Jeremy for a while. (Granny thought it was time to start teaching responsibility… bit by bit.) 

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Paula politely agreed to help – after all, she was already six and Jeremy was not even one yet, and she was the perfect little girl. She had never done it before, but how hard could it possibly be? Paula politely sent her grandma to the kitchen and stayed with Jeremy in the living room. The two rooms were actually one, split in two with a huge dining table, but for Paula it felt like a whole new room where she would now be in charge. Jeremy was in his playpen and Paula decided they, meaning she, would watch cartoons on TV. She sat down in her favourite armchair and started watching the pink-and-green letters announcing her favourite cartoon.

And then suddenly – Jeremy cried. Paula cooly said ‘Hush, please,’ and kept watching. But Jeremy kept crying. Paula gave him his tea bottle and helped him hold it for a while. Jeremy smiled gratefully. Then she went back to the TV. She wasn’t happy – she had already missed the opening song. She nestled back in the armchair and calmed down with a sigh.

And then Jeremy cried again. He’d dropped his bottle. Paula politely said she’d hold it for him for a while and she did, so Jeremy smiled. But it was difficult to see the TV well from the playpen, so she kept leaning away from it, and as she did so, Jeremy’s bottle followed. The poor boy got all wet from the spilt tea, and cried. Paula wasn’t happy and she felt a light flicker in her tummy. Not a pleasant one. Grandma popped in and asked if everything was all right, and Paula said ‘Of course, grandma, he’s just a little wet from the tea, that’s all!’ Grandma changed his little T-shirt and went back to the kitchen, and Jeremy smiled. He happily continued to play in his playpen. Paula sat down to watch the rest of the cartoon.

By now she had missed the first half of it, and she wasn’t happy at all. The flicker in her tummy kept growing and it seemed to be getting teeth which slowly started to nibble at her from the inside. She took a deep breath and calmed herself down.

Then Jeremy cried again. He’d dropped his favourite little ball, and it rolled out of the playpen and under the bed. Grandma asked if everything was fine, and Paula politely said ‘Fine, grandma, he dropped his ball, but I’ll get it for him!’ She crawled under the bed and got it for him. Jeremy smiled his biggest smile. Paula fixed her dress and went back to the TV. Oh dear, the cartoon was already getting into its second half and Paula had even missed some of the characters. It was getting difficult to calm the flicker down, as it seemed to have grown hands, too, and they kept pinching her from the inside. She took the deepest breath and firmly decided to watch the ending calmly.

And then she felt it. It touched her nostrils and didn’t make her happy at all. Jeremy pooped his diaper! Paula and her flicker agreed it was not an emergency and she decided to watch the cartoon through. Jeremy began sobbing and grunting, ever so quietly, but persistently too. Paula felt her flicker pinch, but decided not to call her grandma, so she wouldn’t miss the ending of the cartoon. The sobbing got louder, and the pinching got harder, till Jeremy finally started to cry very loudly, desperately needing a clean diaper. Grandma came in – this time she wasn’t happy that Paula hadn’t called her in time, because by then it was difficult to calm Jeremy down. But granny changed his diaper and cuddled him for a while. Then she went back to the kitchen to try and save the cake.

Paula’s cartoon was over and she had missed the ending. The final song was already playing and Paula felt her flicker grow legs. It started jumping up and down inside her to the rhythm of the song, as if mocking her.

And then… you guessed it – Jeremy cried again. Paula closed her eyes, covered her ears and jumped to her feet, and the flicker inside her exploded like a volcano, rushing from her tummy to her mouth, and when she opened her mouth to let it out, this is what she heard: ‘Stop it, you little annoying brat, you bad, bad boy, you little crybaby, you horrible snivelling monster!!!’

She looked around to see who said it, and became petrified as she realised it was her own voice that echoed the room.

Grandma stood in the doorway shocked and couldn’t speak. She had no idea Paula even knew some of those words! Even the flicker was shocked and got stuck in Paula’s throat, motionless and silent like a frightened kitten.

And Jeremy? Poor little Jeremy, standing in his playpen with his hands grasping at the brim, instantly closed his mouth completely confused. He had just wanted his sister to play with him, and she, Paula the Polite, had screamed at him at the top of her lungs. His chin started to tremble as he sobbed and ghasped without a sound. And then – there it was.

At first just a glimmer, and then real sad round tears appeared in his eyes, rolled down his cheeks and his sadness found its loud voice – and he cried till he was red in the face and his hands white on the brim. Paula just stood there paralysed, and grandma rushed to console him. She put him in her lap and patted his head and rocked him gently, and his horribly sad little eyes kept looking at Paula, feeling betrayed and hurt by his big sister. And as his tears subsided, her shame grew.

When he finally calmed down, grandma looked at Paula soundlessly, with an angry look in her wise old eyes. And Paula the Polite mustered all her strength to quietly ask ‘ Grandma, what do I do? What do I say?’ And grandma seriously said ‘You might try saying sorry!’

Paula came up to her little brother and, with her voice still shaky and insecure, said softly: ‘I’m sorry!’ And she really, truly, most sincerely meant it. And Jeremy – he just smiled with a happy glimmer in his eyes, and hugged her as strongly as his little arms could squeeze her body.

Paula learned a valuable lesson that day. She found out nobody’s perfect, including herself. She realised there’s nothing quite as soothing as your little brother’s smile. And she finally understood the difference between being polite and being kind. The strawberry cake was slightly burned, but it had never tasted so delicious and so special before.

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 (The story was published several years ago in Teaching Children from the Heart, a book for a charity cause, comprised  from the stories and poems of teachers from all over the world. It is meant to be read by adults, but read to and with children. The pictures were found on Pinterest and edited in pixlr.)

Anita Kovacevic

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