It’s almost too much. Old Dad GARY STEEL chronicles two significant developments in a single week.
Thousands of parents on kid-based forums have no doubt noted the phenomena of time seemingly moving simultaneously at two contrasting speeds. It’s not unique to parents of young children, but it’s intensified.
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On the one hand, time moves at a glacial speed and it feels like drudge jobs like nappy-changing and being unceremoniously woken multiple times each night (to settle a restless wee monster) are the new, permanent norm. On the other hand, every single day brings the delight of a new word uttered or a surprising behavioural character anomaly unfurled.
There’s no point in despairing at odd and increasingly embarrassing hangovers from a child’s early years, but the 6-year-old’s “blankie” had long been an item we would have happily binned had we not known that there would be painful ramifications.
Blankie had been with her since she was a tiny pre-toddler. For years, it had to go everywhere with her and if she lost sight of it, there was hell to pay. And losing it seemed, for a time, to be a vocation. The worst example of losing Blankie was a trip to Auckland where she carelessly let it drop under a café table. We got nearly all the way back up North (around three hours of driving) when she discovered that Blankie wasn’t there, and the levee broke.
That night, there were tears and meltdowns and more tears; so much so that the wife made her a substitute Blankie, which she rejected then begrudgingly accepted but which just couldn’t fill the void left by the authentic Blankie. Happily, when we rang the café, they had found it and kept the already food-stained and rather grubby Blankie there for us to pick up a week later.
The unhappy 4-year-old held onto her substitute Blankie for dear life that week, and sometimes she’d cheer up completely and forget about her missing “friend”, but not for long. She was beside herself with joy when the real Blankie came back, and over the subsequent few years, while her overall reliance on it has waned, it’s always been there for her.
School changed everything, and she no longer needed Blankie with her all the time. But she still clung to it at nights and took it out with her from bed to breakfast in the morning, and it could usually be found hanging around her after she got home in the afternoons.
This ratty old blanket is now full of holes and stains that just won’t wash out but it still has to be next to her pillow every night. Except last week, it stayed by her pillow for days, in exactly the same spot, untouched. She went everywhere without it, for the first time. Poor Blankie, I almost felt sorry for it.
The 2-year-old has never shown any desire to have a blankie. Instead, he’s got a puppet kangaroo in his cot which he brings to Daddy every morning and makes me “talk it”. I’m glad my friends can’t hear my pathetic falsetto kangaroo voice, although I probably should be very embarrassed that the wife can.
Like his sister, the 2-year-old’s passed a landmark this week, too: he finally figured out how to climb out of his cot. He’s been able to climb into his cot for months now, but that’s a very different thing. Climbing out means that all of his Dennis The Menace instinct can play out at any time he wants. Potentially, he can exit his bed in the middle of the night and take every single thing out of the cutlery draw while Mum & Dad are asleep. Or dress up in his sister’s clothes. Or drag a chair down the hall and climb up to open the door to the most desirable room of the house: Dad’s office-cum-hi-fi room. The potential for destruction and general mayhem is unlimited.
I don’t know where he gets it from, but the little fellow, previously good mannered and a real gentleman in the making, has started saying things like: “You’re an idiot!” and “I hate you!” I get the feeling that a certain older sister may have whispered these curses to him, but the thing is, as annoying as they are, you can’t help laughing. He can’t say “idiot” properly and it comes out sounding like “irri-it”, which reminds this old boomer of a horribly racist Chinese character on The Benny Hill Show in the 1970s who said the word like that. And when he says “I hate you!” it’s often followed immediately by “I want you!” And that reminds me of a skit that comedian Alexie Sayle used to do where he would say “Come here! Go away!” (Well, you had to be there, I guess, stranded in the ‘80s).
The poor little guy not only has a complicated 6-year-old sister to try and live up to, but an intolerant Mum and Dad who won’t let him do everything he wants to do just when he wants to do it. How unjust! “It’s NOT! FAIR!” he’ll proclaim. Still, at least he picks up the rubbish his sister still drops all around the house. That’s something.