My baby is almost grown up now! You are most definitely a toddler – striving for independence but not quite able to do things for yourself; desperate for attention and often clinging like a vine to Mummy’s legs. ‘Hold Mummy’s hand!’ you insist, and I’ve almost trained you to do so when encountering roads or car parks or public places. But I’m never quite sure if you will bolt off and refuse to listen to my instructions (selective hearing is another of your two-year old traits).
Your less than desirable behaviour includes pinching, kicking, standing up on your high-chair or ‘the big chair’, climbing onto the table, dragging chairs around the house to get at things, pulling up or breaking Mummy’s flowers and plants, poking Toby or pulling his tail, pushing over the pile of nappies, wriggling uncontrollably when we change your nappy or having a tantrum when you don’t get your own way. (All in all, it’s hard to keep our cool sometimes!) Thankfully this is balanced by your breath-taking signs of affection (‘love Mummy’ or ‘love Daddy’ you say, and your pats and impromptu kisses and hugs are our best reward).
You have all your front teeth and several molars but eating food is still not something we can take for granted; we try not to make meal-times a battle field but sometimes it’s hard work! Thankfully, you have moved beyond throwing or spitting food, but it’s still a temptation to play with it or drop it on the floor ‘for Toby’ rather than eat it.
Your hair is still thick, blond and fast-growing; haircuts are something you endure rather well as long as the process is accompanied by all the usual professional accoutrements; I’ve tried to cut it myself but you won’t sit still for me.
Your face is angelically sweet, with a smile to make the hardest heart melt, long eyelashes the envy of every woman, and smooth, soft skin that reminds me of what youth is all about. Your scent is like nectar.
Books are still your most favourite thing and you’ll happily spend mornings and evenings poring over them with me or your Daddy. ‘Mummy read story’ or ‘Daddy read boot’ (your word for book) is your usual early morning demand, as you climb into ‘the big bed’ with an armful of treasures – there’s Marley, who delights you with his tale of the school yard; the French illustrated dictionary that I’m planning to hide because I’m so sick of it; Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tittlemouse (‘Peter up there’ you point every time, towards the cross-stitch picture on your wall); babies (several books of those); Bialosky the bear and his Christmas preparations; and the Dreambeast and his problems with moodswings – and that’s just a few of your current favourites.
Playing outside is what you most prefer to do in good weather, armed with sunscreen and a hat. Your legs and arms are brown but underneath the t-shirt is a pure white body. You now weigh nearly 13 kilograms – still slight for your age but you seem healthy and full of energy (you run us ragged every single day!). You love the playground and it’s fascinating to watch you interacting with other children there. Every week, Grandma (whose name you now say properly, instead of ‘Mam-ma’) comes to play, and you’re happily entertained for hours in the garden, going for walks or to the local swimming pool. Beardy is still high on your list of desired playmates, although you’re in awe of his height and deep voice (‘Beardy growl Harry’, you say, grinning sheepishly).
You can say so many words now that we’ve lost count. We still keep a record of notable sentences and phrases, which constantly amaze us as they are built on day by day.
You sleep reliably through the night for at least ten hours but often as many as twelve. We’ve moved your cot as you learned to climb out onto ‘the big bed’, so now you are ‘contained’ for a while longer. Your bed-mates include woolly dog, woolly bunny, Ginger (a soft dolly) and blue teddy.
Every day passes in a rhythm that is at once both fast and slow. It is broken by your two-hour sleep in the middle and action-packed at either end. I can never turn my back or fully devote my attention to anything else but you. The most enduring impression I have of you when you are absent is a constant, clamouring voice and cloying little fingers and arms. I miss you fiercely at those times. When you are with me, I am often caught up with admiration and love in the presence of so much beauty and skill (but sometimes I am also frazzled and desperate for some ‘time out’ myself!)
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem