The dimmer switch

Watching Mole and Hedgehog’s minds develop is a bit like watching a fuzzy picture gradually get clearer and sharper coming towards us, or slowly turning a dimmer switch from off to full on.

Last week, I was reading Mole the bedtime story “Billy Moves Out”, which is about a cat called Billy who suddenly has to share his room with his baby brother Eric. There is a good chance we will be asking this of Mole in the next year, which could result in her threatening to move out too. Who are we kidding? Mole is never going to share her bedroom with Hedgehog, she wouldn’t share so much as a paperclip and this morning she offered Hedgehog’s breakfast to the dog.

Anyway, in the middle of the story, Mole started talking to me about her day. We had a pretty coherent conversation for five minutes, all about where she’d been with granny (wrest park), what they had done (swings), where I had been (on train), where daddy was (downstairs), where granny was now (granny house), about her birthday coming up and our seaside holiday after that. All the time I looked into her eyes and thought how remarkable it was that here we were chatting away, when less than three years ago she came into the world as a blank slate, lying quietly on my chest and looking bewildered.

When Mole was born, I literally had no idea what was going on inside her head. I didn’t know who she was. It was like an alien creature had landed and taken over our home. Her only way of communicating was by crying. Our relationship was all about touch and smell. Then by degrees she surfaced. First with a smile, then a laugh, then making lots of babbly noises, reaching for things, pointing at things, moving about, and finally, the words came out.

The most amazing thing to watch for me has been the language, even more amazing than the first time they walk, because that is when you really start to know them. You get into their world, they can tell you what they’re thinking, what they know, what they remember, what their hopes and fears are.

Some of Mole’s hopes and fears today included… “Mummy, daddy’s not very good at putting tent up. Can you put tent up?”… “Can I come on hammock with you mummy? oh goody”…“Mummy, what you got there? can I have some?”… “Doggy, do you want porridge? hey doggy, here it is, you want porridge?”… “Daddy, can you do roly-poly?”… “Can I play with Harry? where is Harry? oh, there’s Harry. Hello Harry, you want to come play on my trampoline?”… “Mummy, can I watch Peppa Pig? pleeeaaassssseee?”… “I jump on the bed, I break the bed, ha ha ha ha”… “Story book, read it read it”… “We going swimming mummy? hooray. I wear my armbands?”… “I water mummy’s vegetables, okay?”… “I want milk, no, juice, no, milk, I want it in pink cup, PINK CUP”… “No, I don’t want go to bed”… “Mummy there’s spider in my room”… “MUMMMMM”….

I know that Mole is vivacious, strong willed, funny and sometimes sulky. She is loving and considerate, she is in awe of older children, she learns fast, her mood can change from upset to happy in a second, she has a wicked sense of humour, her favourite food is ice cream, her favourite thing to do is play on our road with the neighbouring children and she likes to hoard toys in her room like a squirrel. Her favourite toys are dolls, handbags, phones, wind mills and trumpets. A lot of what she says sounds like a teenager, things like… “Nooo dad, stoppit”. She is two going on fifteen.

Imagine what I’ll know about her when she is six? (which is also her favourite number).

Meanwhile, Hedgehog’s vocab stretches to “shoe”, “doggy”, “oh dear” and “schmerr”. She uses schmerr to express pretty much everything. She points to the pigeons, tracks them across the sky, looks at me thoughtfully and says “schmerr”. She hears the ice cream van, twizzles round in her highchair, bounces up and down and coos “schmerrrrr”. Today while we were out flying a kite, I pointed to the paragliders riding the winds and she jumps out of her skin, gives a little squeal like this is the most amazing thing she’s ever seen and turns to me with an urgent “SCHMERR”.

Hedgehog is just coming out of babyhood and already showing a different character to Mole. She is quieter, more easy going, but also has an inner fire and is holding her own when it comes to fights over toys. She is coming more into focus, the dimmer switch is turning up and the floodgates of words are about to open for her too.

I can’t wait to hear what she says.