Well, in this house, it’s probably Jamie.
Jamie loves buttons. Not the ones that do up clothes, but the ones that you can press that sometimes make interesting things like lights or noises happen. Of course, some buttons don’t do anything obvious, but it’s worth pressing them anyway – I mean, you just never know when it might have an exciting effect. Which is why, in recent months, his parents keep finding that the house is suddenly and unexpectedly roasting because the thermostat has mysteriously been turned up a few degrees, or that the television amplifier is on some strange new echoey setting that makes the dialogue impossible to follow, or that the printer is displaying instructions in Japanese.
In the past few days, I’ve decided that he might as well compensate for this by making himself useful. So Jamie now has the job of Official Light-Switcher. When I go from one room to another with him, I hold him up to the light switch and ask him please to switch it on. Or off, if we’re leaving the room. And he does. For a while I think he was mainly understanding the context rather than the words themselves, but I do think now he may have learned what the words mean. The past couple of times I did this, I tried standing so that, although he could reach the switch from where I was holding him, he wasn’t looking at it – and he promptly turned round when I asked him and worked the switch. Parenthood brings such amazing rewards, doesn’t it? Just think of all those tedious milliseconds I would still be wasting on pressing switches for myself if I were childless!
Other things Jamie enjoys:
Opening and closing doors. Or drawers. This has therefore become included in the Official Light-Switcher’s tasks. Thus I now move around the house with a steady commentary of “Open the microwave door, please, Jamie… Open the cupboard door, please, Jamie….” My husband is just waiting for his first sentences to be “I’m sorry, Mummy, I’m afraid I can’t do that. I know that you and Daddy were planning to disconnect me.”
Climbing. He can now climb onto the dining room table (via the chairs) and, as for mastering the stairs, that’s old news. The number of places in the house where it’s possible to leave anything that is either dangerous or breakable is shrinking faster than Jamie’s common sense is growing.
Pulling books off the shelves. This is a pastime that he only discovered when we moved. Prior to that, we were in quite a small rented house and stored as much stuff as possible in the garage, still packed, so we only unpacked three boxes of books. (We were in the house for nearly five months! Thank goodness the town we were living in has a good library.) So, it wasn’t hard to leave the bottom couple of shelves on the living room bookcase free, and Jamie just didn’t get into the dining room much in that house. But when we started unpacking the books here, he was delighted at Mummy’s obligingness in not only putting all those books on the shelf for him to pull off, but putting them back again so that he could pull them off again. And then again and again and again.
The Hat Game. This consists of Mummy putting an old bobble hat on her head and then taking it off again, to a hyper-enthused running commentary. Sometimes, Mummy puts the hat on Jamie’s head instead. Mummy has also, in increasingly desperate attempts to inject a passing molecule of variety into this, tried putting the hat on her feet, but that just isn’t the vintage Hat Game, it appears. Jamie regularly signifies his desire for the Hat Game by picking up the hat and crawling over to Mummy with a huge grin on his face. Oh, look! Guess what I found, Mummy! We can play the Hat Game again, Mummy! Isn’t that exciting? Oh, well, Mummy can always knit extra padding into the hat, to protect her tiny brain when next she’s driven to beating her head against the wall.
Ham, bananas, and peaches. He likes lots of other foods as well (rice cakes are the most recent discovery) but those are his top favourites. On one occasion, Barry was getting some ham slices ready for him to eat once he’d finished whatever was currently on the tray in front of him, and on seeing that ham was an imminent possibility he simply cleared his tray with a sweep of his arm and sat there expectantly waiting for the ham course to be put before him without further ado.
Being a shoulder baby. Since Jamie’s getting quite heavy to carry around and Barry never had much interest in using slings, Barry carries him on his shoulders when we’re in the supermarket (we do occasionally persuade him to sit in the trolley seat, but that isn’t nearly as much fun as being carried by Mummy or Daddy). This is a much superior way to travel – not only does Jamie get to observe the world from a greater height than most babies that age ever achieve (even among other shoulder babies, there can’t be that many with a father who’s 6’4″), but he gets to grab Daddy’s hair and nose as well when he gets bored. (When he’s on Mummy’s shoulders, it gets even more fun because he can grab glasses as well. Strangely enough, Mummy rarely puts him on her shoulders.) This is also the way we deal with the evenings when he refuses to go to sleep before dinner but is then exhausted and whingy during dinner. “You see, you must now forever bear the shame of being a shoulder baby,” Barry tells him as he swings him up to his shoulders and proceeds to eat his dinner as best as possible one-handed.
Keys. Since he’s a baby, this one goes without saying, and the main reason I mention it is to indulge in a brief moment of parental bragging about my child’s genius – a few weeks back, while playing with an old bunch of keys which we have no use for and which thus has been redesignated a Jamie toy, he crawled over to the conservatory door and started trying to place the key next to the lock. While he still clearly has a few finer details in the process to work out, we are most impressed by the fact that he has figured this much out. (Since then, he has been seen to watch us very intently as we unlock the front door, clearly determined to figure out this whole unlocking deal.)
Remote controls. Lots of buttons for Jamie. Unfortunately, Mummy and Daddy insist on being unreasonable and restricting him to just the one (from a TV that died a few months back and thus left us with a spare) despite the fact that remote controls are so obviously meant to be a Jamie toy.
Things Jamie doesn’t like:
Having his teeth brushed. (He has eight so far – a full set of front teeth, which were already present when he reached his first birthday but which have remained as yet unsupplemented by canines and molars.) He really enjoys brushing them for himself (as we shall charitably describe his fiddling around with and randomly chewing on the toothbrush) but screams his head off when it’s time for Mummy to brush them properly.
Being prevented from exploring the many, many, many wonderful buttons and climbing opportunities and generally interesting things that Mummy and Daddy keep all round the house but won’t let him look at.
Talking. He does use the occasional word – ‘mih’ for ‘milk’, ‘Dada’, possibly ‘Mum’ – but, by and large, he’s not a very verbal baby.
Going to sleep. Though he is now a lot better at this, thanks in large part to Tracey Hogg’s ‘The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems’ (good god, the woman is irritating, but she does have some helpful advice in amongst the rubbish, the patronising and the overflowing Englishness).
Um – not a lot else, really. Two months into the official toddler period, he’s still very good-natured, on the whole. He will complain loudly about something, but forget it within a minute or two and get happily on with something else interesting.
That was Jamie’s comment on the matter, since he woke up from his nap at this point and wished to join in. He is somewhat unhappy with my wish to a) reclaim my keyboard and b) put finishing touches to this instead of playing with him, so I must go and investigate the joys of Duplo blocks.