17 June 2010

Hartley: Seventeen Months

Dearest Love

You have been seventeen months for six days now. Every morning your daddy brings you into our bed so that you can have your first milk of the day, and each time it is like I am looking into a different face. You have more definition in the folds of your eyes and the lines around your mouth, and if I didn’t know better, I would think these were deepening from all the smiling and laughing you do. Unless I’ve got it backwards and you’ve been hiding a packet of fags beneath your cot mattress (your primary playgroup is located at the heart of a council estate so it’s in the realm of possibility).

This month you have really and truly grasped language, and repeat pretty well everything I say once, sometimes retaining words I didn’t even know you knew, and using them in the right context, which really blows my mind. Like one morning you stole my cereal bowl because I’d taught you how to drink the leftover milk and you’d already finished all of yours. You tipped the heavy ceramic bowl to your lips, slurped up a mouthful and finished off with an appreciative NICE!, except it sounded more like NOICE! which I guess is down to you being British and all (more on that later).

(More on that now, actually.) The very first word I watched you learn with my own two ears was ‘happy.’ You learned it off the telly, I’m not ashamed to say (maybe a little), and it was mainly because one of the characters kept slamming that word home: “Panzee is happy because she jumped around a lot; Drum is happy because she found a nice yellow banana; Tang is happy because he’s a big dumb ape.” I’m just paraphrasing here – the point is, you watched with mild interest, and when the gorilla’s monologue came to a finish, you looked at me, smiled shyly and said in a lilting voice: Happy. Except you said it like: Hah-pay. Because you are British, and because even though you are meant to have my accent until such time as you are in school and thus mainly influenced by the accent of your peers, you watch an awful lot of CBeebies.

Actually though, we only have the telly on for background noise these days, because for the short amount of time you spend not engrossed in eating meals (0.5 seconds) or brushing your teeth (20 minutes) or napping (it varies) or purposeful outings (…) you are usually playing with your many, many trucks and pointedly ignoring the bubble-eyed, squeaky-voiced, motley-coloured characters aimed at your demographic. To be honest, you’d be perfectly hah-pay to spend the entire day at the sink swirling your toothbrush around the plughole and demanding more paste on your brush, which you do by pointing at your toddler toothpaste tube and squealing Teeeef?! Teeeef?! until I give in and dab a bit more on the bristles.

You really surprised me the other week when you climbed up the steps of your own slide and sat at the top, and when I said “Ready?” you responded with “Stiddy (steady)…DOH! (Go!)” and then “DA DA DOH!” which you deliver as a run-on sentence, and which I think is your approximation of “Get set go!” We asked everyone we could think of to determine where you picked that up, but virtually nobody we spend time with says Ready, steady, go. It wasn’t until I heard another mum at playgroup say it as her own son went down the slide that I realised you have been paying more attention to your environment than even I can claim, and I pay a lot of attention now that you are running full tilt towards the Next Big Thing, and away from your mummy.

I read a heartbreaking article about how, at this age, you are actively pursuing your own aims, even if they conflict with mine, and that this conflict feels desperately dangerous to you. I didn’t know that your fits of head-butting and clawing, spitting rage and flailing limbs were simultaneously tinged with fear that I might not love you for it, so I have been extra careful not to let my frustration or dismay show when you have a full-on tantrum because I wouldn’t let you play with the printer ink cartridges. I want you to take it for granted that we are on solid enough footing that you can make these claims on your agency and literally fight me tooth-and-nail to be your own boss, because in the end, this confidence in yourself will be more important than any inconvenience it might cause me. (I’m still not giving in about the printer ink though.) Thankfully 'yes' has made its way into your repertoire.

You still wake up constantly in the night, though it’s no wonder, as your little mouth is absolutely bursting with new teeth! I bet that hurts. Still, when I come into your room to feed you in the wicker chair by the window, you never take what is more than necessary. You go from one breast to the other, holding your arms up in between so that I can lift you just high enough for you to swing both your legs around like a little gymnast on the pommel horse, and we do that until you’ve had your fill. If I interrupt you too soon, you’ll whimper and cry until we sit back down; once you are finished though, you lift your arms one last time and point at your cot, which I carry you to and gently lower you into. For some reason, these past few nights, as soon as your head hits the pillow, you giggle through your nose and grin your way into sleep. This has become one of my favourite moments of our day.

What can I say, chicken? What will sum you up best this month? Your softest baby skin when you push your face into mine and breathe kisses into my upper lip? The way you set your mouth and then form the letter ‘y’ in your throat seconds before you say ‘yoyo’ when I ask you if you want yogurt? The way you run with your arms outstretched like a drunken zombie, or look people in the eye when you smile at them, as though there’s no doubt in your mind that they’ll love you to bits like we do? I could write an entire novel about your seventeenth month and it would only elucidate your loveliness by a nano-something-or-other. That's a very small amount, if you must know.

I wish I could write more, actually, but I’ve got to keep this short. We’re going to Canada tomorrow, to see your other half (half of the family, that is) and to experience the red carpet treatment like nowhere else. You’ll see what I mean when you’re older.

Hah-pay seventeenth month, chicken. I love you to bits.

1 comment:

Lass said...

These posts always have two effects on me:

1. Tears
2. Admiration for your intuitive, natural parenting skills.