A slim magazine published by a major nappy manufacturer plopped through our letterbox this week, addressed to me.
‘Dear Mum’, it began, ‘You are probably getting used to being called mummy now.’
Wrong. Snooks resolutely refuses to name me. I am simply there, at the end of his outstretched arms. He does say quite a few other words though – ball (or balle - see say quoi), boat, bear, cheese, helicopter (actually perkeperkopter – very onomatopoeic) and car.
However, having binned the first 14 months’ of unsolicited mail from this company, including, I gather, quite a few handy coupons which I know it is the destiny of all mothers to collect, this time I read on
Perhaps tiredness had weakened my resolve. A 5.30am to 8.30pm working day can do that to ya. And it is not that I don’t think the nappy makers might have something useful to say, I just hate being forced to read it.
So anyway I started to flick through the pages, noting the subheads – Terrible Tantrums, Do Dads Have Different Rules? – and was hooked.
After tearing out the coupons, I settled down in front of the Wimbledon women’s doubles final, holding Snooks with one hand as he stood atop the coffee table about to step off into thin air and clasping the mag in the other.
(Anyone who doubts women’s ability to multi-task should watch a mother at home with children. Now that’s a transferable skill worth noting.)
It tells me that at 16 months old our Snooks is learning a sense of self, of his own distinct identity. For a long time, Snooks has enjoyed long sessions in front of our full-length bedroom mirror, smiling, crying, walking away and turning round to see himself and cuddling Clairebear. But it would appear only now is he able to understand that the image is himself.
Along with this realisation, I read, comes self-will and the need to express it. Wanting things his way is part of asserting his newfound identity. The fury at being denied therefore (i.e. a tantrum) is understandable. It all makes sense and comes as a relief.
Watching Snooks run from one end of the room to the other to bang both fists on the toy box lid because I would not let him play with the scissors was becoming a rather alarming daily event.
Frustration at not being understood also accounts for the outbursts, the booklet says. Once he can communicate better, this will ease.
Snooks and I already manage some kind of communication though it often arises from a lot of pointing (him) and holding up objects saying ‘this’ (me) until peace is restored. But I do cherish the thought that soon he will be able to talk to me and say what he needs. I am curious to know what is going on inside that lively little brain of his.
Even when we do fight (of course I bring my personality to the party too), we usually manage to reconcile pretty quickly.
I read, with some degree of smugness, that I have already instinctively instituted the recommended hug after a barney, which soothes me just as much as it does the boy. Long before Snooks was born, I vowed to myself that this would be a family which would know how to apologise to each other; there would be no fighting to the death in this house.
Also I was told by one of the many wise women of my acquaintance, when I tearfully confided to her that I had shouted at Snooks, to remember that this was a relationship, like any other. It ebbs and flows. And it grows.
Although signs of Snooks’ very individual personality have long been evident, it is only in recent months that I have begun to fully grasp that he is an entirely separate person from me.
I know this sounds odd but it has been hard to comprehend that he may be quite different to me: he may like beetroot and soft-centred chocolates; he may be more confident than I am; he may be more intelligent, or who knows, he may even be good at art.
Obviously I know objectively that he is his own man and let us not forget the fact that he is at least half Engineer.
But the truth is that this sense, this feeling of separation of self may be a little slower coming for me.
I wonder if the nappy makers have got anything useful to say about that.