‘They grow up fast’ is a thing people say to parents of toddlers and we generally nod in agreement because, I mean, I guess – but do they, really? Sure, we have to buy him new clothes more frequently than we do ourselves, but it’s not exactly blink and you’ll miss it stuff. They grow up fast? Compared to what? Whales? Trees? Kids certainly grow slower than cats or dogs or cows or any other animal I can think of. I think elephants and whales take a while, but I’m not willing to look it up because I’m too busy cleaning tomato soup from every surface of the kitchen for the fifth time this week – something I’m fairly sure a three-and-a-half-year-old porpoise or badger would have grown out of by now. In the hopes of getting a sense of my son’s development over the past year, let’s take a clear-eyed survey of how much has actually changed.
Speech is one of the areas of his development where time really does seem to have flown. When we watch videos of him from this time last year, helooks broadly the same, albeit a bit more squished and pudgy, but is still communicating in semi-garbled baby speech, whereas nowadays he’s one of the finest conversationalists I know. I am willing to admit that his propensity for chat is genuinely impressive, and the difference 12 months has made seems to stretch the bounds of reason. He has also gained the ability to learn any song you care to teach him, which has entered critical mass during the Christmas period. In terms of growing up fast, I’d have to give this a 9 out of 10, losing points only since he has miraculously not yet memorised any of the swear words he’s occasionally copied from us.
In terms of hygiene, he’s come on in leaps and bounds and this could be another high scoring quadrant for this year end review, – certainly when it comes to issues such as wanting to eat soil and/or drink toilet water. That being said, the ups and downs of toilet training have occasionally left us having to dispose of human waste in plastic bags while in public places. In conclusion, a mixed bag, and one occasionally filled with human waste.
Arguably the most impressive change has been in coordination, since there’s no doubt the boy has progressed rapidly in this regard. He can now climb surfaces, manipulate objects and navigate his way around the wider world with an aplomb that would have seemed like science fiction 12 months ago. But, as his mobility and ambition have increased so, too, have his opportunities to enfilthen himself, and at higher places in our home. This time last year, for example, he would not have been able to open a jar of jam, nor climb into our bed. Now he can, and will, do both at the same time; allowing us to gently wake to the sensation of being stuck to our own sheets in a sugary, syrupy mess.
At such moments, my wife and I rejoice in our sticky, strawberry morning, and are likely to marvel at his development anew. ‘If this is him growing up so fast,’ we say with calm delight, ‘then, frankly, it’s taking ages.’
Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Séamas O’Reilly is out now (Little, Brown, £16.99). Buy a copy from guardianbookshop at £14.78
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