I can’t quite remember how to do this blogging thing. Do I just start typing?
As I am sadly likely to gradually forget quite what he is like at this age, I will attempt to describe Harry at two.
Because, astoundingly, Harry is two. 2. Two. One plus one. Two whole years in the world. No longer – and this bit kills me deader than sausages – considered an infant. I can’t let go of the baby in him, despite the fact that he is daily taking enormous (albeit unsteady) strides towards Total Personhood.
He climbs like a monkey, obsessively, clambering continuously both over the sofas and any mammal who seems likely to remain still long enough to be successfully mounted and broken piggy-backed. This urge to mountaineer is an unfortunate characteristic to possess when you are also a congenitally wobbly little lad, but he doesn’t seem to mind the vast majority of his continual face-plants. Mummy minds them more, generally. He is a tiny ball of pure energy wearing a pair of perennially dusty shorts and sandals, between which poke two short, sturdy and constantly bruised and battered legs.
In distinct contrast to his personality a year ago, he is a highly affectionate child, delivering a steady flow of delightfully squeezy hugs, wet kisses, and enthusiastic nose-rubbings. He has lately taken to greeting friendly-looking strangers like long-lost buddies, wiggling his small bottom abruptly onto their laps – even though the possessors were not precisely proffering them up for occupation – and waiting expectantly for entertainment.
Entertainment comes in many forms: he loves his ride-on green loader-tractor with a passion, despite repeatedly and compulsively removing all the pins that make it actually work. Anything vehicular is a favourite, as are his model animals, particularly the giraffe, and his toy kitchen. He has recently discovered the delights of jigsaw puzzles. He gets very excited about crayons, although likes collecting them all into one pile more than actually scribbling with them. This week, he has begun to colour in precise objects in his colouring books when asked to, as opposed to the wild scribbles that were his previous meisterwerks – usually done on any object other than the designated colouring book; our walls and the TV seem to have done particularly badly. He loves his slide, although is a little nervous about descending the 6ft one without a hand to hold, and a visit to the soft-play centre is always hugely popular. Try to walk him past – or remove him after several goes – from the motorised toy ride-ons outside shops and you’re completely cruising for a toddler bruising. He is an outdoors child by preference – doesn’t mind the rain and simply adores garden sprinklers and water features – although his favourite playzone outside is, regrettably, the interior of my car. It’s only a matter of time before he breaks an indicator stalk off. He’s already managed to lock himself in the caravan parked next to it, causing a minor panic whilst the key was located.
He has beach-bum blond tousled locks and a face that can melt the crustiest visitor, perched atop an 80cm 1st-height-percentile wiry, faintly pot-bellied and wonderfully double-chinned frame. He is now tall enough to juuuuuuuust operate the internal door handles, which is Not A Good Thing. He is always busy, always occupied, always operating with mental cogs whirling at top speed. He does not relax unless half-asleep in our arms, quite significantly unwell, or engrossed in a particularly fabulous TV program. He watches more CBeebies than I feel is, strictly speaking, good for him.
His near-complete lack of speech means that he is a fascinating little enigma to me. His communication is by turns sadly non-existent and crystal clear, but making absolutely no progress that we can discern. The most basic building blocks of human contact elude him (he does not understand the concept of choices or how to affirm them, cannot nod, cannot sign or indicate ‘yes’ at all) yet we often feel a small paw slide into our hands, followed by an insistent tug and a steady tow – most frequently towards the kitchen. Here, he will indicate by pointing, opening or clawing at either the cupboard (crisps), the fridge (soft fruit), the dresser (bananas) or the freezer (ice cream), followed by frantic signing (incorrectly, but consistently so) for ‘More!’ – his all-purpose, one-size-fits-all Makaton sign. If we are lucky, he will use some eye-contact as he makes these mute pleas for ‘More!’ food, but generally he stares intently at the object of his desire (or the cupboard door dividing him from it) like a tiny Jedi knight mastering a recalcitrant Force. It is hard to misunderstand, however, when a small boy scurries busily towards you triumphantly clutching a tupperware crisp container half as big as himself, which he plonks down expectantly at your feet before making an insistent, nay, imperious ‘More!’ sign under your nose. Or when he beetles up to your knee and begins to pat your leg in familiar fashion – while very obviously eyeing up your plate. Even visitors tend to understand that one – if they don’t, he simply quietly helps himself. And always, always – often comically so – to the Very Biggest Portion.
His mother’s child: he is keen to subsist mainly on cheese, french pastry, fruit and sugary snacks, his desire for rather more pedestrian food being capricious – and thus, of course, reassuringly and overwhelmingly normal. He alternates between effortless consumption of what must surely be his own bodyweight in carbohydrates (his father’s child) (on a good day, I would back Harry with solid sterling against children at least twice his age in a pasta-eating competition) and inexplicable disdainful rejection of what was yesterday’s favourite choice morsels.
His language comprehension, as far as we can ascertain, is about average for his age, and he understands and demonstrates a good many Makaton signs, despite using very few of them (apart from the ubiquitous ‘More!’ to obtain food/open door/tv/toy) pro-actively. His knowledge of nouns far outstrips his knowledge of verbs or adjectives as he goes through his day pointing, glancing round to locate an informant, and chirruping enquiringly. Once he knows the name of something, he will stab his forefinger emphatically when presented with a photo or picture of the object, with increasingly urgent and piercing squeaks, glaring interrogatively from the picture to you, until the correct name of the object is spoken. When the mood is on him, he will spend ages giving increasingly excited signals to his companion to label everything he thrusts his finger towards.
Oddly, in such a boisterous, rambunctious little boy, he has a marked dislike of messy play, dirty hands, and some textures. Sand fascinates him sufficiently to enable him to partially overcome his evident dislike of the way it feels – he will uneasily tolerate it under his feet, but is generally troubled by getting it on his hands and is much happier using tools to interact with it. His Child Development Advisor, or whatever she is called, tried without success today to encourage him to touch some porridge oats. He kept a wary distance from the quite patently Very Evil cereal, although was eventually persuaded to prod it with a spoon.
His speech and language team are puzzled by his peculiar sensitivity to background noises and some sounds, although he no longer goes bananas when he hears a reverse alarm at the farm, and he now permits me to click my tongue in a horse-trot impression without launching himself at me in a desperate attempt to rip out my tongue and stop the noise. Currently, the blasting foghorn/pneumonic death-rattle aural hybrid caused by the airlock in the waterpipes between the bathrooms is the thing that sets him off into frantic yammering tears at bathtime.
He is a beautifully obedient little boy when asked nicely (but urgently!) not to touch, or to put something back, and he gives a charmingly guilty start when he is mid-reach for a known-to-be-verboten object and I clear my throat meaningfully. A new dawn brings a fresh slate, however: every morning, he bounces across the bedroom, climbs precariously onto the wooden stool in our bedroom and reaches hopefully towards the clutter of shiny objects on my dressing table. Every morning I sleepily and crossly tell him to get back down – which he promptly and phlegmatically does. This game is obviously well worth the candle.
He visibly basks in praise for clever behaviour (he will pointedly whip up more applause all by himself if he feels there was a parental paucity of expressed appreciation) although he is depressingly violent towards both us – and upsettingly, himself – when he is distressed or thwarted. His trunk muscles are comparatively weak, we think, hence the wobbles, but his arms and legs are certainly possessed of painful clobbering-clout. Head-butts are undoubtably his most potent weapon, however, and despite learning some evasive moves (mainly learning to dodge a whole lot quicker) I am now in regular possession of a fat lip, a painful nose and a bruised chin. These episodes are fairly frequent and extremely hard to deal with; both John and I are – and I, personally, choose to use the word – guilty, of sometimes lapsing into angry shouts, and, on one recent occasion, a smacked leg. Remaining calm is the quickest and dryest path through this particular swamp of frustration, yet family always know how to push your buttons. When Harry stops thumping my nosebuttons with his head, that’ll be grand.
His sleep pendulums wildly from uneventful night-long slumber, past 5.30am waking, past hourly night-long screaming sessions, to thrashing, protesting, hysterical bedtime fear. We disconnected his baby monitor (due to an eye-wateringly embarrassing, ahem… broadcasting incident) with the unfortunate result that an unusually early nap-waking went undetected – probably for some considerable time. He was highly distressed when I eventually heard him, and has shown no sign of regaining any bedtime sleep confidence since. There’s only so many times you can read Dinosaurs in Underpants aloud before your own somnolence overtakes his. His changing sleep pattern has its compensations though: last week he not only fell asleep of his own accord in front of the TV one afternoon (he is, after all, a male child), but the next day climbed sleepily into my lap at naptime and when invited to Go SleepyByeByes Now, to my astonishment, actually snuggled down and began to slumber. This, in the middle of all his toys, with none of his usual sleep cues, is Absolutely Unheard Of. Moreover, he woke after 2 hours (motionless) kip on the sofa in an absolutely peachy mood. I bet it’ll never happen twice.
His laugh – a bubbling, chuckling hymn to the glorious blue-skied simplicity that is early childhood – is simply the best sound I have ever heard, and it lifts my heart indescribably whenever I hear it. Tickling and Peep-po are still reliable eliciters of this audible treasure.
He has, courtesy of this latest birthday, a greatly enlarged fleet of Britains scale model tractors. He can, when asked, unerringly point a finger at the steps, the wheels, the steering wheel, the engine, the exhaust pipe and the pick-up hitch, among others. His father is quite ridiculously pleased by this, although farm-brought-up children do pick up agricultural vocabulary early on. His teenage cousin W visited today (and was ‘More!’d out of a hefty chunk of his slice of Harry’s birthday cake. Harry enjoys cake.) and was reminded by his mother that on his second birthday, he was escorted across the yard by a non-farming family friend who enthusiastically pointed out a tractor (with its engine casing off, undergoing some pipe repairs).
“What’s THAT, W?” – expecting to elicit “twacter”.
The birthday-boy W cast an appraising glance over the stricken machine.
“Hydraulics,” he piped.
Filed under: Parenting | Tagged: His Lordship, Sleep Good. Sleep Nice., Speech Delay, Weeble | 11 Comments »