The baby is 18 months old. There have been many lessons learned.
1) Do not expect a sensible answer to a sensible question
Q: “Darling, why are you lying in the mud in the middle of the park?”
Q: “OK — and may I ask why you are sleeping?”
2) Do not ask rhetorical questions
My “and what shall we wear today?” (which was academic given I already had her jeans and top in my hand) was met by a decisive “spotty jim-jams, two pink plates and an umbrella”.
3) “W” is the most overused letter of the alphabet
I had not realised until now that “wingers” are not Ryan Giggs, Theo Walcott et al, but the digits on the ends of one’s hands. Likewise, in the morning I take a “wower” and, correspondingly, our favourite vegetable is “cauliwower”.
4) Procrastination may the thief of time, but no one told the baby
Eighteen months old and already her answer to everything is “in a minute”.
5) Mummy does not always have the answer
A treat for breakfast. “Do you know what it is darling? It’s a crumpet.” “Crumpet. Ooooh”. Cups hands to mouth. “Toot toot toot”. How does one explain the difference between a crumpet and a trumpet to a baby?
6) There is always an excuse
The baby is walking round the house, throwing her arms about dramatically shouting “Oh god, the mess”. And I thought it was quite tidy. But then I discover what she has done to her room: all the wipes out of the packet (explanation — needed to wipe all the toys’ bottoms). And all the clothes on the floor. Because “they are pretty”.
7) Babies lack sophistication
For example, my baby did not appreciate my Masterchef obsession, and rejected the quenelles of fish finger with a pea fricassee and sweetcorn foam, asking for a wamwich instead.
8) Two steps forward, one step back
Just when you think you have got somewhere, you discover that actually, you haven’t. Illustrated by a recent conversation that ended thus:
“What does a dog do with his tail?”
“And what does a dog eat?”
“No, darling. A doggy eats a bone. Bone. So what does a rabbit eat?”
“And what do you eat?”
9) You are never too young to fall in love
There are many objects of my daughter’s affections. At bedtime we go through an ever-increasing list to establish that yes, baby Harry, Abi, Zoe, Meelia, the toy caterpillar, Peter Rabbit, (and so on) are also drinking their milk like good boys/girls/fictitious animals.
But now there is a new love, someone she talks about day and night. Like a teen outside the X Factor house, she will do anything to catch even a glimpse of her hero, peering over my shoulder to scour every corner of the Friday playgroup in case he might be there. When she spots him there is no containing her excitement. “Hello rabbi” she yells at the top of her voice. “Waving at rabbi, winking at rabbi, blowing kiss to rabbi.”
While I am a great admirer of the rabbi, I am hoping that for the baby this will be a fleeting first love and thus we can avoid “the conversation”. For I still remember the misery when, at age two, my parents explained to me that I wouldn’t actually be able to marry my Uncle Charlie because he was already married. (Not to mention my uncle and 30 years my senior — I guess there’s only so much a heartbroken toddler can take in at one time).
10) You can kid yourself, but you can’t kid a kid
Yes, I’m old, but the thing is that I forget that I am old most of the time. But it appears the days of self-delusion are numbered. My daughter sat upon my lap, gazing adoringly up at me, gently tracing the contours of my face with her fingers. “Aaah,” I thought, lump in throat. “This is what it’s all about. The inextricable bond between mother and daughter. And now she’s showing that she understands it too.”
“Mummy,” she said. “Lots of wrinkles.”