Conversations with toddlers

Conversations With Toddlers # 1 : Women on Ships

Max and Amber on a tree swing, April 2021Max and Amber on a tree swing, April 2021Max and Amber on a tree swing, April 2021SCENE 1:

An incomprehensibly messy living room, somewhere in Scotland. The room appears to have been burgled, or, at the very least, ransacked. MAX sits amongst the debris, king-like, holding court to a small army of soft toys. In the background, Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom plays on the TV. It is the episode in which Captain Redbeard attempts to find the treasure at the end of the rainbow. Max appears completely oblivious to the show. SPOILER: HE IS NOT.


Max’s bedroom, that evening. A harassed looking AMBER is attempting to wrestle MAX into his pyjamas, when…

MAX: Mummy? Why is it bad luck to have a woman on a ship?

AMBER: Whut?! Who said that?

MAX: Captain Redbeard. He says women can’t go on ships, because it’s bad luck. Why is it?

AMBER: *vague recollections of Captain Redbeard making this statement to keep Nanny Plum off his boat* Er, well, that’s not actually true, Max, it’s just a joke. Of course women can go on ships!

MAX: No they can’t.

AMBER: Yes they can.


AMBER: [through gritted teeth] Well, Max, that’s called a superstition. It’s something people believed a long time ago, but which isn’t actually true.


AMBER: [Wondering why a cartoon pirate is considered more of an authority than she is...] Trust me, Max, women are allowed on ships, and it’s not bad luck.

MAX: [now utterly hysterical] I DON’T BELIEVE YOU! It’s TRUTH! It’s TRUTH!

AMBER: TERRRRRYYYYY! Please come and explain to your son that women can do whatever they want.

TERRY silently materialises at the bedroom door. He has the air of a man who was in the middle of dealing with a complicated work-related problem, but who now finds himself wrenched from his comfortable desk to argue with a toddler. Terry knows he will not win this fight. Terry has been here before.

TERRY: Women are allowed on ships, Max. Now, get into bed, and we’ll talk about this in the morning.

As an inconsolable Max is tucked in with his legions of soft toys, Amber and Terry exchange a furtive glance. Surely he will have forgotten all about this by morning, they seem to say? Surely?

Amber and Max, spring 2021SCENE 3:

Max’s room, the next morning. A dishevelled – and, quite frankly, wrecked looking – AMBER opens the bedroom door, whereupon MAX immediately sits up, as fresh as a daisy.

MAX: Mummy? Why is it bad luck to have a woman on a ship?

AMBER silently screams inside her head…


The living room, later that morning. MAX kneels on the floor at the coffee table, carefully constructing a delicate tower from pipe cleaners, which will fall down a few seconds after it is completed, thus prompting an epic meltdown. AMBER sits on the sofa behind him, nursing a cup of coffee, and looking like a woman who has recently encountered a hedge, backwards. All is quiet. Suddenly, Max’s head swivels around, a bit like Damian in The Omen:

MAX: Mummy? You still didn’t tell me about the women on the ships, mummy? Why is it bad luck, mummy?

AMBER: Well, remember how we talked about superstitions? And how they’re just things some people believe, which aren’t necessarily…

MAX: No, it’s true.

AMBER: It really isn’t.

MAX: IT IS! Women are bad luck! But WHY are they, mummy?

AMBER: [Uncomfortable with the weirdly misogynistic direction the conversation is taking, and the messages her child has been internalising thanks to Captain freaking Redbeard…] Women are not bad luck, Max, on ships or otherwise.

MAX: So, why are they bad luck on ships, mummy?

AMBER: [Vague recollections of it being something to do with them being too tempting to the sailors or something.] Er, I’ll tell you what: let’s ask my phone, shall we?

AMBER: * Googles *

GOOGLE: “Women are considered to be bad luck on ships. Also redheads. No redheads on boats. No siree.”

AMBER: OK, I’m not telling him THAT. Also, why?

GOOGLE: “Red hair has long been associated with a fiery nature, temptation, and, of course, the devil.


MAX: What’s the devil, mummy?

AMBER: Wait! Here it is! OK, so the reason some people believed women were bad luck on ships was because their presence angers the sea gods, causing rough seas.

MAX: Aaaaaaaahhhh!

AMBER: [to herself] Right, so the idea of women as autonomous beings who can do whatever the hell they want was WAY too far-fetched for you, but you’re totally comfortable with the existence of *checks notes* “angry sea Gods?” Coolcool.

AMBER: [to Max, relieved that this conversation is finally over] And that’s why some people believe it’s bad luck to have women on ships!

MAX: [instantly devastated] It is NOT bad luck, mummy! THAT’S A LIE! WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME A LIE?!

Max drops to the ground, and begins beating it with his fists, clearly inconsolable. After a few second’s thought, Amber joins him. On the coffee table behind them, the pipe-cleaner tower abruptly falls apart. As the dust settles, a small voice pipes up…

MAX: But what IS the devil, mummy?


Max at Norton House, April 2021

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books by Amber Eve
  • Donna


    I’m so glad you have a record of this so you can bring it up to Max at an opportune time in his future!
    Revenge is sweet! ????

    May 4, 2021
  • Myra Boyle


    Hahaha I can visualise every moment of this conversation. I can remember Darren asking how do trains get on the tracks when he had just turned four. He thought they must use a crane to lift it on. Long story short – I had no idea so asked a colleague whose husband worked on the railway. She had no idea either. Her husband said Darren was right they do use cranes. Darren asked lots of these how/why rational questions like this that Google could easily provide the answers for today.

    May 4, 2021
  • Tracey


    This is one of the best things I’ve read this week.

    June 29, 2021