I’m still having trouble adjusting to the idea that, as of next week, I’ll be the mother of an 18-month-old child. I’ve been calling her a toddler for a while now – mainly because she toddled at 11 months – but there’s something about the magical one-and-a-half-years-old mark that brings it home to me: she’s growing up.
Alright, we’re a few years away from driving lessons and visiting universities, but she is now, unmistakeably, a little person, and not a baby. Her personality, striking from the outset, is now very clear, and as she ramps up her communication with us, it’s simply staggering realising how much she’s learning every day.
Talking came on very suddenly; a few weeks ago she blurted a word here and there, and now you can’t stop her chattering away. Understanding is far from foolproof, of course. She may yammer away, but much of the time it’s incomprehensible, apparently random. Still, it is undeniably exciting and weird to have conversations with her. She’s particularly talkative in the car with me, when she babbles from the back seat. She’s always liked itemising everyone she loves (“Yiayia?” “She’s at home.” “Pappou?” “He’s at home.”) as if knowing that everyone’s where they should be gives her an anchor; maybe it does. Now she likes me to tell her that everyone loves her. And sometimes she really makes me laugh.
Me: Yiayia loves you very much.
Me: Pappou loves you very much.
R: Capper? (Casper, our cat)
Me: Casper… well, he thinks you’re okay.
R: Capper wuvoo? CAPPER WUVOO?
Me: Casper loves you very much.
Or, a few days later:
Me: Yiayia loves you very much.
Me: Look. Everyone loves you. You’re the best!
Ash also gets in on the act:
Ash: Are you happy?
Ash: Are you okay?
R: Yes? Sad?
Me: You’re sad?
Me: Why are you sad?
Ash: Are you a traffic cone?
Both sets of grandparents are industriously teaching her things she can parrot, but not possibly understand, but that’s fine. Learning by rote has a bad reputation, and certainly I can’t see any point in endlessly repeating something you don’t understand when you’re an adult, but that kind of pattern-matching is incredibly useful when you’re very small. Constant repetition – I’ve had to hide certain books, so sick am I of reading them to her, and I NEVER thought I’d get sick of a book! – is the name of the game.
On the subject of books, we do all love a set of books published by Parragon that my in-laws got her for Christmas and Channukah. Based around simple emotions, they help children express happy, sad, angry, shy, proud, brave… absolutely lovely. She’s too small to embrace naming most of the emotions other than the first two (her gurning in response to ‘happy face!’ ‘sad face!’ is hilarious), but she’s started to memorise sentences and associate words. So if I read “I feel happy when I’m with…?”, she’ll gleefully shout back “Mummy!” and it’s basically the very best moment of my day, no matter what else has happened.
I can’t find the books on Parragon’s website, but I imagine some of their other board books are also excellent. They came as a stack of mini board books in two long boxes with carry handles that she took to slinging into the crook of her arm and strolling around the living room with until they collapsed under the onslaught of toddlerish prodding.
I’m slightly terrified of what happens next, because between incomprehensible shrieking tantrums – often related to teething, which is a truly evil thing – and scarily sudden progress, I’ve once again got to that stage when, just when you thought you knew the lay of the land, the goalposts have shifted again.
For example, she’s always been great at night and is a joy to put to bed; despite my refusal to try controlled crying when she was smaller she has not developed any sleeping hangups. On the contrary, since she feels secure she’ll now go in awake and quietly soothe herself to sleep, rarely waking up unless something out of the ordinary (sickness and New Year fireworks) disturbs her. But on the flip side she’s recently, quite suddenly, gone back to being absolutely random about naps when she’s not at nursery, sometimes sleeping for ages, sometimes not, sometimes early, sometimes late. I thought we’d left that unpredictability behind a few months ago. But hey, I’ll swap complete routine confusion during the day, which is perhaps inevitable when you’re with different people through the week, for a near-flawless routine at night.
Well, for as long as that lasts, anyway.
Oh, Ramona. You’re usually so busy asking me about everyone else that I have to remind you about Mummy. Mummy definitely, positively, unquestionably loves you very, very much.