Tuesday 26 August 2008

Look who's talking

I took Betty to an activity morning earlier today, where they had a singing and dancing session, lots of unusual toys and instruments, and various things to jump on and climb through.

Betty spent most of the morning chasing the boys (ignoring the girls) and giving them big snotty kisses on the lips. I spent most of the morning being grilled by a scary mother (SM), who I had previously met at Betty’s swimming classes last year. She was asking me how many words Betty can say and whether or not she is putting words together yet. I explained to SM that Betty says ‘Da Da’ quite a lot, and apart from teasing us with the odd one-offs such as ‘tractor, fish, windmill, melon, biscuit, goodbye’ etc, that is about as far as things have got. I told her that I wasn’t worried, and that Betty has her own mind and would speak when she is good and ready and not when we tell her to.

SM went on to tell me that her ‘little prince’ can say almost anything, and in two languages what’s more, and is now putting 3 or 4 words together. She told me that this was almost certainly because she had religiously read books to her child daily ever since he was born, and also that she ‘takes the time’ to talk to him regularly. She then gave me a sympathetic look, shook her head and tutted. I wasn’t sure if she was tutting at me for being a bad mother for not reading or talking to my daughter (which, just for the record, I do, and always have done, ALL THE TIME), or at Betty for not being as advanced as SM’s little multi-lingual genius.

My great aunt regularly asks me whether or not I am actively teaching Betty to talk. And when Betty and I are in her company, she takes matters into her own hands and will spend hours with Betty saying loudly and clearly: ‘This is a BALL BALL BALL. This is a CAT CAT CAT.’ Betty reacts in much the same way as she does with me and Tom, and raises her eyebrows, sighs, and demands to be let into the fridge so that she can play with some tomatoes.

Having desperately tried, but failed, to join in Betty’s game of kicking three balls simultaneously around the room, I noticed that SM was still hot my heels, and was coming at me with a conversation about potty training. I informed her that Betty is not potty-trained, but does enjoy sitting the doorstop on the potty and making a ‘psshhh’ing sound. SM looked disturbed at this, and then told me in great detail about how she had taken a week off work to potty train her 20 month old child. ‘Admittedly it was chaos’ she said, ‘there was poo and wee all over the house for the first 3 days, and then I gave up.’ She told me that she plans to take another week off work in September and try it all again.

There was a scary look in her eyes, and so I left her with her potty thoughts, and went off to join Betty for a hand-clapping session.

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Singing in the rain

On Sunday it was my turn for a lie-in. And while Tom was getting it in the neck from Betty downstairs because he had offered her the wrong spoon to eat her porridge with, I was enjoying a peaceful Chocolate Orange breakfast in bed, and trying to decide on a plan for the day.

Half an hour later, Betty was armed with her bucket and spade, Tom with his book, and I with my four beach bags, and we optimistically headed for the seaside. I insisted that we cheerfully sing ‘oh I do like to be beside the seaside’ all the way there, whilst the rain thrashed down, and Betty threw raisins at the back of my head, laughed, and then got upset because I wouldn’t pick them up and give them back to her.

After a two-hour journey, we arrived starving and grumpy. We sought out some fish and chips, and being intent on doing the traditional British thing, I insisted we eat them on the beach. We huddled together behind the beach wall to shelter from the wind and rain and tried to eat them as quickly as possible, while being assaulted by seagulls. Betty excitedly squealed ‘BIR BIR BIR,’ whenever one swooped, whilst I completely freaked out and screamed: ‘They’re going to get us.’ I have a serious seagull phobia.

Meanwhile, Tom was hurriedly trying to eat his huge haddock which I had already given him a hard time about spending our last five quid on – there were no cash-points around and I had wanted to buy Betty something, anything, from the tacky beach shop. All the while I was trying to take photos of us all eating our chips together. I had a go at Tom for pulling an ugly face in every single photo. “I’m trying to eat my bloody haddock,” he hollered back, and with that he ordered me and Betty down to the sea so that he could finish his fish in peace.

It was Betty’s first proper paddle in the sea. I rolled her little dungarees up, put her down onto the sand and off she charged into the water. I was so caught up with taking photos of her that I wasn’t being very attentive and before I knew it she had decided to sit down, but seemingly not bothered by the freezing cold temperature, she was having a wonderful time splashing around. She then got up, and with her giant water-bomb of a nappy causing no apparent hindrance, she started running through the water, giggling and squealing. It was a truly magical scene – just like in the films.

Then Tom rocked up and I tried to get him to take photos of Betty and me holding hands and skipping through the waves, but he seemed more interested in taking photos of a jellyfish. So I grabbed the camera, balanced it on a rock, put it on self-timer and then chased Betty across the beach, hoping that we would be in the shot when the camera went off. Tom was half out of shot in the background, slightly embarrassed, prodding the jellyfish with a stick. I retrieved the camera to have a look at the photo and although both Betty and I were in the shot I was dismayed to see a fat haggard-looking dollop (me) running in a very ungainly manner. These days I am genuinely shocked when I look at photos of myself. I seem to be suffering from a serious case of delusion. 

After an hour of these beach frolics, I felt that it was only fair that Betty be relieved from her wet clothes and the three gallons of sea water she was carrying around in her nappy, and so we headed back to the car to sort her out. I was pretty annoyed with myself to find that in the four large beach bags that I had brought with us, I hadn’t put in a sensible spare change of clothes for Betty, or a spare nappy – only a pretty little summer dress, optimistically packed. But I remembered Betty’s nappy bag, which is normally wedged under the passenger seat and hasn’t seen the light of day for at least six months as Betty only ever poos in the comfort of her own home.

I found the bag and the only clothing I could find within was a t-shirt which had something intensely annoying like ‘Princess in training’ emblazoned across it, a pair of dodgy tan-coloured leggings and a badly knitted homemade cardigan, all of which had been shoved into this bag because I never thought we’d ever need to use them, and were now at least two sizes too small.

After cramming Betty into every item of clothing we could possibly find, including the dress, and squeezing her 20 month old bottom into a fusty size two nappy, we were ready to hit the windy cold streets of the bleak Welsh seaside town. As we walked along, with Betty in her pushchair, seemingly in fancy dress, loudly humming the theme tune to ‘In The Night Garden’ and waving a multi-coloured windmill that I had managed to buy for her from a £1 shop, Tom coolly remarked that he felt as if he was part of a carnival display.

Less than fifteen minutes later, we were back in the car and heading for home.

Friday 1 August 2008

One down, four to go...

Tom has gone on a jolly to Abu Dhabi. He left yesterday morning, and whilst it is nice not having to nag him about being too noisy, untidy and smelly, both Betty and I are missing him.

Betty has been looking for him everywhere. I tried to explain to her that he has gone on a five-day piss-up with all his uni mates with the excuse of a friend’s wedding, and that he would not be found under his pillow or in his sock drawer. She gave me a very firm, slightly scary look, sighed and then said: ‘Da. Da. Da.’ Each ‘Da’ grew louder and shriller. Where ‘Da’ normally means anything and everything, I think that in this case the meaning was pretty clear.

In an attempt to keep Betty on side, I have been trying to keep her as active as possible so that she doesn’t have too long to contemplate Tom’s absence. If she were to decide that she is actually pretty annoyed about it, the next few days will be hell for me.

Yesterday morning, I cleaned the car, inside and out, whilst Betty joyfully bounced around on the seats and tried to drive the car away. She enjoyed it so much that I made a note to myself that playing in the car on the driveway will become a regular activity. Whilst cleaning, I found a half eaten chocolate digestive in the glove compartment, which I then flung over the hedge, only to be met with a: ‘Mmm thank you very much’ from the farmer on the other side. I was very embarrassed and tried to pretend that I wasn’t there, and that Betty had thrown it.

We had a painting session mid-morning, sort of. Despite the fact that when I asked Betty if she wanted to do some painting she said a resounding ‘YES’, she refused to do any painting whatsoever. This was after I had set it all up, squeezed all the paints out onto plates, wrapped her up in tea-towels, and laid newspaper everywhere. I then tried to use all the paint up myself by doing my own handprints and painting about 13 different pictures. Meanwhile, Betty didn’t want to get her hands dirty at all and so she reorganised the unused paint-brushes, and sighed a lot.

Early afternoon came, and we decorated her new playhouse in the garden. In doing so I happily discovered that Betty is just as happy with a framed photo of her beloved duck comforter (which I had hung on the wall) as she is with the real thing. This takes the pressure off me slightly as the real thing is on its last legs and I have been having sleepless nights about it recently. Once the house was decorated we then hosted a play-date in it for two of Betty’s lovely friends, Daniel and Molly, in the afternoon. They all had a great time pouring each other cups of tea and dismantling my arrangements. I was then out there at 11pm last night with the hoover and an extension lead, knowing full well that I wouldn’t sleep easy knowing that there were crisp and biscuit crumbs littering the carpeted floor.

Throughout the day we also managed to fit in a trip to the garage to see a man about a spark plug, read what felt like 300 books, and baked some fairy cakes. By 6.00pm Betty was practically begging me to put her to bed and when I tried to sing her usual bedtime song, she shook her head crossly and forcefully said: ‘Da. Da. Da,’ which in this case I think meant: ‘Please put me in my cot now and go away.’

I don’t sleep very well when Tom’s not here. Last night I just lay there, feeling petrified. All sorts of things were going through my mind… fires, burglars, murderers, mice in the playhouse, Betty waking up during a power-cut and me not being able to find her, me getting food poisoning and not being able to look after her. I finally fell asleep at 3am, whilst trying to plan back-to-back activities for Betty today, and having just received a text from Tom saying that he had arrived safely in Abu Dhabi.