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Lauren Beukes

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Dinosaur vs. Parents

Two years and around nine months ago, when Matthew and I decided we wanted a DNA remix combo to call our own, we couldn’t have imagined that the result would be a cross between a T-rex and a tornado.

Our daughter has been many things over the course of her life so far. When Keitu was born, she was a caterpillar and a shark and a pterodactyl kitten and a a bug queen and a small but capricious god, possibly Mayan in origin. (See last year’s birthday post – we’ve come a long way.)

Now we’re convinced that despite her pixie good-looks, she’s a goblin changeling. Possibly related to The Dark Crystal’s Fizzgig, complete with matted dreadlock curls and growly cuteness and foot-stomping when she doesn’t get her way (not technically a goblin, I know, but same genus of muppet).

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Keitu is smart and sweet and adventurous with an outrageous sense of humour. Mostly, she’s just insane. As in loco, nuts and completely mental.

But in the best possible way.

She’s exactly the kind of girl kid I wanted. Exactly the kind of girl kid I’ve written, like Teeter in our SABC3 show, URBO: The Adventures of Pax Afrika or Lucy from our cute and creepy cartoon in development, Lucy & The Nightmares.

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She rampages round the house, launches into wild rumpuses at the slightest provocation, jumps on our friends, claims ownership of everyone she likes (MY Sam! MY Phumla!), talks up a storm – mainly variations of assertions of ownership – and roars like a pint-sized Godzilla. Or more precisely, like the giant furry forest spirit, Totoro, from the Miyazaki film we’ve been watching with her on endless repeat.


She’s inherited our love of story in movies and books. Her current favourites are Lilo & Stitch, The Jungle Book, Finding Nemo (skipping over the shark scenes, for now) and especially Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea – a movie which has inspired several hunts through Sea Point’s rock pools looking for the eponymous magical fish girl, who is a bit of a lunatic herself.

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Keitu loves building forts and hiding and inducing minor heart-attacks in her caregivers by clambering up things not designed for such – including Sarah Lotz’s massive war-charger of a horse (in this case, dragging me with her).

She likes splashing in water, especially freezing cold Altantic Ocean water in the middle of goddamn winter, chasing the kitties, arranging tiny pebbles in my belly-button on the beach, patting squicky bugs while the grown-ups try to clamp down on our gogga-phobia, eviscerating flowers, hanging upside down, helping with cooking (aka enthusiastic stirring) and mucking about in the garden – the dirtier the better.

With her dad, she plants icing balls that he’s told her will grow into cupcake trees, with Sarah, one of her favourite people in the world, they “bury flowers.” I’m not sure which version is going to do more long-term damage to her psyche…

She especially loves reading and her favourite books of the moment are Dinosaur vs Bedtime by Bob Shea and Tyrannosaurus Drip by Julia Donaldson (you may be detecting a theme here) but she also loves Ian Falconer’s mad toddler pig, Olivia, spotting the snail hidden on every page of the whimsical Lucy Goes To Market by Sanchia Oppenheimer, Neil Gaiman’s gorgeous Blueberry Girl, and completing the sentences in Alice Low’s Summer, with its hazy days of ice-cream and fishing and chasing butterflies in rhyme.

In short, she’s wonderful.

And all-consuming.

And completely freaking exhausting.

When I was writing those feisty girl characters for TV shows and wishing for one of my own, I didn’t really think it through. Watching a lunatic girlchild is highly entertaining, inspiring, lovely and fun. But trying to parent one… jeez.

It’s like trying to catch a jet-propelled bouncy ball in a room made of jelly.

But I wouldn’t exchange our changeling kidling for love or books or even sushi.

If the goblins want her back, they’re going to have to fight me.

Happy birthday, crazy girl.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    September 18th, 2010 @13:13 #

    What a gorgeous birthday card, Lauren. Your gorgeous girl is very lucky to have such a clever mom. Happy birthday to you both, and well done to you and Pops for making it through another year. Oh yeah, and having jobs and uber-successful book-babies while you did it!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Sally</a>
    September 18th, 2010 @14:06 #

    She looks positively scrumptious! Happy 2nd birthday Keitu

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    September 18th, 2010 @14:38 #

    Happy happies, Keitu! Bring your exquisite turbo-charged self back to bury flowers in my garden anytime. Lauren, I have to ask: are you and Matthew on speed? It would appear neither of you has slept in two years...


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