The one phrase you are guaranteed to hear over and over again when you have young children is “ooh, they grow up so fast” and, although in some ways I get that, it’s not entirely accurate. We’re at a stage with seventeen month-old Elsa where she is beginning to realise some of her limitations (fast developer, her daddy still doesn’t acknowledge his) and the frustration is clearly evident.
She knows certain words – “tree”, “woof woof”, “baby”, “tickle tickle”, “bye bye” and, of course, “Beebies“…
…but, as you might have noticed, it’s fairly difficult to make a coherent sentence out of that lot. In fact, even Lennon and McCartney would have turned their noses up at that line during their, ahem, ‘experimental’ phase and that’s saying something…have you listened to the lyrics of I Am the Walrus? As such, if Elsa wants something or would like us to know a piece of vital toddler information as a matter of urgency, the message rather struggles to cut through.
She’ll point and grunt like the cavemen in Carry On Cleo (whose brows were furrowed in confusion as to why they still seem to exist in Roman times – it’s almost as if historical accuracy was not a priority for writers of mid-1960s pun-laden mirth) and she becomes so annoyed at her inability to articulate her needs that it’s distressing to watch.
Pointing is no good in our house, she could be gesturing at anything. We are not minimalists by a long stretch, in fact, I’d say we were maximalists but I’m not entirely sure that is a word. After a few fruitless suggestions from us as to what it might have been that she desired, it usually ends in the same way – grumpy tears. Mainly from Elsa.
Walking is another area of annoyance for my daughter – she just can’t do it yet. She can stand up on her own without holding on to any other structure and seems to really enjoy practising. She squatts on her haunches, steadies herself and balances before shakily lifting herself up. It is reminiscent of that slightly fragrant, ruddy-faced fella in Wetherspoon’s at 3:30 on a Tuesday afternoon, but nonetheless, she is standing under her own steam.
However, she’s now desperate to move it on a level and walk and is insistent that we help her. Unfortunately, being reliant on us hovering over her as she clutches our fingers for balance is not compatible with her wish to explore, particularly when she most enjoys goose-stepping up flights of stairs. Seriously. One wrong foot or sharp turn that we don’t pre-empt and she gives up and gets angry.
Of course, once she realises that being able to walk merely means that we can send her to fetch stuff, she’ll regret the weeks she has spent willing it to happen.
I’m not overly concerned that she’s late to the game and that most kids are running around by now. It’ll happen eventually, it’s just such a shame to see her getting annoyed by not being able to let go and stay upright. It’s the same with the speaking – it would be nice to know what she so desperately wants, but the sooner she learns more words or – worse – begins to form sentences, the sooner she can send a few choice retorts back in my direction.
In addition, if she was able to speak and understand a little bit more, then this would be a very difficult time. My Nanna died last week and it made me wonder about how you confront loss and grief with a young child. Thankfully for me, Elsa is only small and doesn’t understand. She met Nanna a number of times and we have some beautiful pictures to show her when she’s older, but for now all she’ll realise is that there is a big party with plenty of sandwiches from which she can extract the filling before chucking the bread on the floor.
There’s no need to worry about whether we peddle a line about a heaven that I don’t believe in because it will make it easier on her innocent ears, she’ll just go with the flow – aside from the aforementioned frustrations, her life consists of tickling the dog and laughing at her own reflection at the minute. I can’t imagine how you even begin to broach such a complex topic as loss with a kid even a year or so older than her. I’m not sure that I fully understand how to react to grief and I am practically ancient nowadays (or at least I feel it).
We spend so long wanting to be grown up and, in some ways it is ace, but you never reckon on the admin. At no point does a child’s fantasy of adulthood involve booking a car in for an MOT, taking some screws back to the DIY shop because they were the wrong size or checking the weather report to see if it’s worth putting the washing on the line outside or if it will just be better off in the dryer. It’s not a race and if you treat it like one you may not be completely satisfied with the medal. Life should be more like a relaxing Sunday – sit back, enjoy what comes and rest assured that you’ll more than likely find yourself engrossed in Last of the Summer Wine as it comes to a close.
Elsa’s biggest concern on the day of the funeral will be not getting home in time for In The Night Garden. She’ll definitely have something to say about that – most likely “woof woof, tree, baby”.
Read more for Bewildered Dad