Today has been exhausting. We’ve been gearing up for this day for a long time, although we probably didn’t quite realise it. I suppose I should have been listening harder to my Mother and to Those Who Have Gone Before, who have all been very clear that at some point you stop having a baby and you start having an individual – a child with its own will and desires who will no longer sit around adoringly letting you do things to it, like dress it or feed it or put teething gel on its sore gums, or cuddle it when you feel like it. A child who would rather starve in charge of its own fork than accept a spoonful from its Mum. A child who will not longer let you simply haul it up for a butt-sniffing but would rather tool around in its own stink than submit to the indignity of a clean bottom. A child who when swooped up for a cuddle after a nasty fall will stop crying and start pushing its parent in the neck to get put down NOW thank you very much rather than receive the Mummy Mantra (“Mummy Make It Better (kiss)”).
Along with this new-found independent streak is an ever-increasing diagnostic ability, massively heightened curiosity and a remarkable ability to reach and grab given the enormous height of this child. This particular child, I mean, as in my child, as in the spud, who is now virtually unstoppable and as willful as a raccoon in a bin full of chicken wings. My child, who suddenly doesn’t give a damn what I think, or say or do and who is only interested in following whatever whim has taken his attention. My child who was recently described by a fellow Mum as ‘a gentle giant, but a giant none-the-less’. On today’s evidence, I think we may have to quietly stow that ‘Gentle’ for a while.
I’ve had a pretty productive week and one of the things I managed to get done was to sew some snugly bumpers for the spud’s cot. Thinking that he is now old enough to get out of trouble on his own should he find himself nose first in the fabric and that the main reason he wakes up in the night is because he’s bicycled himself head-first into the bars, we figured some padding might help us all get a better night’s sleep. So, I wandered over to the market and bought some soft black fleece and some padding and diligently sewed them up much to his fascination. He tried to turn the machine off while I was sewing, tried to stand on the foot pedal, tried to touch the fly-wheel while it was spinning and desperately begged to sit in my lap while I was feeding fabric underneath a rapidly moving needle.
Surprisingly, it all worked and he is now peacefully sleeping with his head jammed into a corner of his cot, breathing gently and crucially, not waking up with a head injury. The bumpers also serve double duty as they block a sliver of light from underneath the black-out blinds I’ve never managed to sort out. I know, because I have doubled over into his cot and rested my head upside-down on his mattress for a look-see. I quite fancied staying in there for a snooze to be honest but I don’t think I’d fit.
So, he’s getting a good night’s sleep which seems to be giving him an amazing energy boost. He slept until nearly 8 today, played happily in his cot for half an hour after his bottle and cheerfully trundled around the flat most of the morning. Once out of bed and fed his breakfast he rounded up the remote control and handed it to his Dad with the little call of ‘eh eh’ he makes which means ‘please turn on the TV’. I was once a person who swore I would not let my children watch TV however now I am a person who catches myself in the middle of a business meeting with the ‘Finley the Fire Engine’ theme song running through my head. So, anyway, he sat down to watch TV for a moment or two and then he got down and turned his bedroom inside out, tried to open a locked door by fiddling with the key, turned all the electronics he could reach on and then off and then on again, pulled things off the top of the hall table that we didn’t think he could reach and turned on every lamp in the house.
Nothing that we do escapes his attention. One can think that one has pulled the wool over his eyes but a few moments later, when he thinks one isn't looking, he has insinuated himself as close to whatever it was one was doing and is trying manfully to replicate the motions. He is very close to working out the lock on the stair-gate and he can spend long periods of time crouched in front of the front door with my keys thrusting them at the bottom lock in hope. Things go into the washing machine. Books are opened and puzzled at. Watches are looked at hopefully. Glasses are put on his face. Hats are perched precariously on his head. My hair ties are pulled behind his head. PIN entry pads for credit cards are to be stabbed at, but only after the card is pulled out of the machine and then shoved back in again which is great fun for the queue of people behind me in the shop. Tops are screwed onto bottles and off again. Cups are carefully picked up and sipped from before being knocked over on the way to open the fridge.
His natural exuberance is lovely. He can be made to laugh at very simple things, such as watching me fall backwards the length of the flat after he shoves me, or watching me weep in dismay as he knocks down yet another tower of bricks (and, damnit, I get quite possessive over my towers of bricks these days. Who knew bricks were such fun?).
He does, however, hate to be stopped once he’s decided to do something and as a full 50% of the things he decides to do are destructive (eating the phone), dangerous (standing on the coffee table) or both (slamming his fingers in the top drawer while taking out spoons to throw in the bin) he is stopped on a fairly regular basis and this is bringing out the exuberant side of his rage. This takes one of two forms – either he sits down on the floor and slumps his head between his knees (something he does less frequently since he tried it out in the bath) or he lies down and arches his back, a pose he can hold for an impressive amount of time.
There’s no point in going through all the other things he did today, the pens chewed, the food thrown, the tantrums in the supermarket, the kitchen things tossed on the floor, the cat tormented, the suspicious blockage in the loo. There’s no point in going on about how many times he struggled or screamed or flailed around and how many times I was forced to put on my big 'no' face.
Much as he exhausts me, it is an amazing thing to watch one's child become a reasoning individual and hopefully he'll start taking control of a few more useful things such as putting on his shoes and making his own dinner. All we have until then however is one little boy who just wants to be in control of something, to do something all by himself; and, if the bumpers work their magic again tonight, he will be doing it all again tomorrow with just as much gusto.