Although, until a year or so ago, my hands-on experience of babies could be neatly summarised as “very little”, I figured I had them sussed. Sleep, poo, cry, food, gurgle, sleep, poo and so on and so forth.
Some time later, there is the odd smile, a bit of cooing and an occasional “mama” or “dada”. And after that I admit to being a bit hazy until the bit where they go trotting off to the infants’ class, tripping over their uniform (“room to grow”) and lugging a satchel that is bigger than they are.
I obviously wasn’t listening when people filled in the gaps — therefore I had no clue as to the sheer speed at which small children change from burbling bairns to rampaging rug-rats. Nor quite how quickly they can move when they have a mind to — and how I would come to spend my days stooping to remove my darling daughter from cupboards, fireplaces and the numerous other places where she likes to get herself stuck. Note to self — must call osteopath.
How fast we have reached the point where have to give dolly her milk before we drink our own, where we must wash all the teddies’ faces before getting ourselves clean (with a now rather fluffy flannel). And gourmet dining in our house now consists of plastic egg, served lovingly to me on a plastic spatula. Still, it’s good for the diet.
I have tried to think back to when I was that age — though frankly it was so long ago that my memories have apparently been filed on floppy disk, Betamax or some other now-obsolete format. I have hazy recollections of pounds, shillings and pence and, a little later, of cutting my panda’s “finger nails” and being aghast when all the stuffing fell out of his arms. And that’s about it.
But the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree — so it should have been no great shock to learn that my daughter likes a natter. Fourteen months she may be — but just like her mother (and her great-grandmother before her), she believes it’s good to talk. Life these days comes with commentary:
Get dressed: “Gocks!” (aka socks – though no, in our house they are now most definitely “gocks”) “Top… knick nicks…”
Put on jewellery (rare): “Necklet – ooh” (tug, break etc etc).
Visit friend’s newborn son: “Baby. ’Arry. Ahhhhhhhhhh. Cuggle.”
Proffer breadstick: “Oooh, snack.”
Drop cup: “Uh oh. Wet.”
Pop to supermarket: “App-le, – nec-rine” (fruit aisle).
“’Arry ’Arry…” (the pictures of any babies on the nappy packets).
And so it continues. Every day more words appear from nowhere and each time this little voice says something new my heart swells with pride. But it’s dangerous territory.
Yesterday she gained unauthorised access to our bedroom and was discovered, guilty faced, clutching contraband in each fist.
“What’s in your hand?” Little fingers open to reveal treasure. “Keys, mummy.” “And what’s in your other hand?” The other set of fingers unfurl. “Car key.”
How easily I am swayed by her grasp of language — admonishment displaced by pride, and discipline down the toilet. Must do better.
Her powers of observation grow daily and with them her idiosyncrasies. I guess I will never know why the word “kiwi” can only be said in a voice that sounds like Donald Duck, nor why lions always roar in the quietest whisper. I guess I am more concerned about the day she will point to my midriff and say “spare tyre” instead of “tum tum”.
Alas, my plans to show off my daughter’s prowess have not always come to fruition. At a family gathering I was proud as punch as she identified the guests by name…
Who’s this? (pointing to me) “Mummy.”
Who’s this? (pointing to husband)
Who’s this? (pointing to mum)
Who’s this? (pointing to nephew)
“Poo poo,” followed by uproarious laughter.
Admiring the stained glass window on the stairs… “Can you show Auntie how you can say window, darling?” “Turkey.”
Her latest trick is to follow any guest who decides to use the facilities, shouting “Wee-wee, wee-wee” at the top of her voice. Maybe the Victorians had a point when they said that children should be seen and not heard.