Monday, 7 September 2009

who's counting?

Snooks is eighteen months old today.

It is a landmark, which for those readers without children may seem like cheating. Who marks months? (A quick mental calculation just made me 535).

Before I got pregnant, I met a second time pregnant friend for lunch. The conversation went like this:

“Hi, how are you doing? How far gone are you?”

That was me, trying to sound interested but not really and not knowing what the correct terminology was for a grown married woman happily with child, as opposed to a teenage school friend who had still not told her parents.

“72 weeks.”

Of course she did not really say that but she might as well have done. Her answer was given in weeks, which I then visibly struggled to calculate into real money.

“You are going to have to get used to this if you are going to have a baby,” she sighed, and filled me in about the whole 40 week deal.

Then once they are out and about, one segues from week counting to month counting at about 12 weeks when they have reached an age worth mentioning in months.

This continues until the big ONE when everyone shifts to years for about a month and then back to months again for the foreseeable. (Two is not foreseeable at this stage, believe me. It seems like a century away).

Once you have mastered this spectacular shift of bases you have the school years to count, which bewilderingly do not begin with one. What kind of mean trick is that to play on us all?

Just as our clever little offspring are starting to grasp the Hindu-Arabic basics, we launch them into a system, which defies it.

‘Year One’ is actually the second year. They start in ‘Reception’, which could more accurately be called ‘Year Zero’ and in my day was simply, and logically, ‘Infant One’.

A nice man at the council explained it all to me over the phone the other day.

“Ah no we don’t call them infants anymore and there are no juniors either, well actually there are a couple of junior schools but not many so perhaps easier if we just don’t count those…” etc

“So when they reach year six, they have actually been at school for seven years?”



So although I know it’s unhelpful when someone asks, as a kind stranger did yesterday, how old Snookie is and I reply ‘Seventeen months and three weeks’, but he just isn’t one any more.

The Engineer and I were recalling just last night how changed he is since his first birthday. His face and legs have thinned out a bit; his hair is thicker, blonder and slightly calmer; he can run, quickly and confidently; he can kick the ball the whole length of the hallway; he can jump, sort of (he jumps down which means he jumps from standing to sitting. He is very proud of this); he can open the gate which encloses the no dog area of the common as well as the gate outside the house which he mastered as soon as he could walk; he can dance, combining hand waving, foot stamping and revolving in circles. His favourite dance song is Back in the USSR by the Beatles on account of the jet engine intro; he can climb onto the back of the settee, the dining table and footstool in our bedroom all of which have opened up new worlds of exploration for him and new heights of anxiety and vigilance for me; he can use a fork and a spoon and can hold a knife correctly but at the moment just uses it to whack peas which stray off his plate; he has paddled in the sea at and subsequently slept on four different beaches, two UK two Mediterranean; he voluntarily turns onto his tummy and swims in the bath, which he loves so long as no water passes anywhere near his ears; he hates tomatoes, broccoli, melon, any breakfast cereal (a toast man through and through), milk (other than mine) and rice cakes; he also hates M&S, nappy changes and lullabies.

He loves balls, large and small; cars (including Formula One racing cars which he observed when his father was watching the Grand Prix on television with the comment, “Cars. Fast.”); tractors; diggers; trucks; planes; helicopters; his boy buggy; blueberries; potatoes; cheese; hot cross buns; fish (salmon, tuna, cod - even prawns); peas; Iggle Piggle; kites; the sea.

To date, (though it changes daily) he can say: ball, sun, sky, sea, fish, kite, cat, tiger, light, dark, cold, hot, tap, bread, breast, cheese, cake, biscuit, rusk, blueberry, apple, banana, bear, truck, tractor, car, boat, plane, helicopter, train, phone, drum, buggy, fast, Daddy, Joe and bye bye.

However it is the frequency and force of his newest word – no (accompanied by a vigorous shake of the head) – which mostly marks the change from the cute little dumpling photographed on his first birthday.

While the time seems to have slowed to a crawl since I started spending my days watching our little boy’s every move, paradoxically he is changing faster than I can write.

The days may be long, but every one counts.

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