On being asked a few days ago what she would like in her packed lunch the following day, Katie replied "The thing with bits in." On request for further clarification she was able to tell me that it was round and flat, which left me none the wiser. I offered several guesses as to both specific food and general category before her face brightened and she exclaimed "Soof beef!"
"Ahhhhh. Salt beef," I amended.
Katie's brow furrowed. "I don't think I could say that very – er – loudly." (As an approximation of the idea of 'clearly', that's not bad.)
"OK. So you want salt beef."
"What was that other thing you called it?"
I cast my mind back through the recent conversation. "Meat?"
"Meat!" my daughter confirmed delightedly. "It's meat."
"It's a kind of meat," I clarified. "So is ham, sausage, turkey slices… Anything that's pieces of an animal is called 'meat'".
Katie looked rather worried by this. "How does that happen?"
"Well," I explained brightly, "the animal gets cut up into pieces. But it's all right – it gets killed first." (That one may not actually make it onto the Top Reassuring Statements Of All Time list.)
"And then they get a flattener," Katie agreed with the air of one for whom matters are starting to fall into place, "to make the salt beef pieces."
"Not a flattener, love. They cut the pieces like that."
"No, Mummy," Katie explained earnestly, clearly determined to make sure I had this point straight, "a flattener. To flatten the pieces."
I let it go at that. There is only so much detail on the mechanics of cutting up dead animals that you want to be going into in any one conversation with your three-year-old.
"On January 17th," Jamie mused aloud on Friday morning, apropos of not very much, "Baby Solly will be able to have the pink mat."
It was not the first time that Jamie had planned the date on which a particular item could be passed on to his infant cousin – a few weeks back, when he finished a set of books from a reading scheme that had different colour codes for different ages from three to seven, I overheard him commenting that on September 17th, 2013, we would be able to send Baby Solly the red books, and then on September 17th, 2014, the… etc. However, this one surprised me somewhat, since the pink mat in question (one of those suction mats you put on a high chair tray to hold bowls in place against the efforts of infants to knock them flying – I bought this one for Katie and never got round to using it, so it became one of the zillion pieces of junk littering our house) is on top of the dining-room bookcase supposedly out of Jamie's field of vision. I do recall showing it to him years ago when he caught sight of it and wanted to know more, but I certainly wouldn't have expected him to remember that it was still there – hell, I'd barely remembered it was still there. However, he is quite correct – it is indeed labelled as being for the 4+ months age range and, as unbelieveable as it seems, that is indeed the age that Solly is due to turn on January 17th. I agreed with Jamie that Solly might well want the pink mat.
"But not until January 17th," Jamie stressed. Age limits are not to be taken lightly, in Jamie's world.
So there you have it, Ruth – if and when you do decide to go ahead with the solids, there's a pink suction mat available for Solly if you so wish. Only after January 17th, of course.