Saturday, September 20, 2008

Letter To A 26 Month Old DareDevil

My darling Tricky

26 months…wonderful yet terrifying.

“He (or she) is a real little person now!” others exclaim, as if, up till now, you have been another species. Possibly a meercat.

Perhaps this is because others now understand more of what you are saying. While we have delighted in your imperious commands and stern retorts for some time, not to mention your enormous repertoire of nursery songs, other folk have heard only a succession of goo goos and gah gahs with a few tinkle tinkles thrown in here and there. But now, when you sing ‘appy bir’day dear gamma,’ gamma does actually hear and understand.

You sing, you dance and jump on the spot (“I’m dumping! I’m dumping!”) And how you enjoy taking up new words, rolling them about your mouth and chewing on them eagerly as if each word was a warm tasty chunk: Avocado! Tomato! Medicine!
It's like we have gone back in time with the books because you are back in love with Commotion In The Ocean, not for the crappy poetry but for the hidden starfish that adorn each page.
"Where is the TarFish?" you demand of us. "It is somewhere here," and you swirl your chubby hand in an imperious circle over the page, helpfully allowing us to find the tarfish for the billiontieth time.

Just as we get excited about your language so too you kindly let us know when we have managed to correctly identify an item.

"Tricky is that your avocado you threw on the floor?"
"Yes mummy, it IS mine avocado!"

"Tricky is this your toothbrush in the bath toys?"
"Yes, it IS mine toosbwush!"

Of course along with all the rights of morphing from meercat into Real Little Person come the responsibilities. Frequent spontaneous expressions of joy for instance. (Tick) Also kissing of parents without being directed. I’m giving you a tick for this one too even though I note that your most recent version of giving a “diss” is you pushing your open mouth against my face, and rolling your own face from one side to another.
It’s like I’m a lump of shortcrust pastry and a small damp rolling pin is preparing me for a citron tart. I can handle it because you have the softest skin in the world whereas if your father decided to adopt this style of kissing I could be in danger of being grated to death.

And your other responsibility of course is to take frequent risks. Tick tick tick.

My heart went a little cold when the father of an 19 year old party animal (“I think she’s doing her degree in hard liquor”) told me last month that he could tell who among his toddlers was going to be Roger Responsible and who was going to be Petunia Puke In The Plastic Bag.

Even at such a tender age, he insisted, the seeds of Caution and the seeds of Bloody Minded Risk Taking were firmly dug in and already taking root.

I filled him in on your plastic motorbike exploits and he nodded grimly and went on to talk about his daughter’s early quest for thrills which seemed to involve rolling herself headlong down the stairs.

It made me go quiet and think about you and the way you seem to be utterly fearless and I wondered whether it will mean in years to come you’ll happily indulge in various self-destructive activities just because you can/it’s there/you’re bored.

There’s no fanfare around your stunts, no ‘look at me’ as you rocket down a concrete drive on your motorbike with your legs outstretched, or leap off the edge of the couch, or run full pelt up the hallway and throw yourself down so you go skidding on your knees like a rockstar.

I see you press your lips firmly together and take on an expression of great concentration (which I usually associate with you filling your mumpy) just before you launch yourself into the unknown. And when the thump comes, as it inevitably does, there are surprisingly few tears.

You’re not a wuss. Not with that sort of stuff. You laugh and bounce with your three big cousins on the trampoline and I dance around the edge of the net saying “gentle jumping boys,” “please don’t keep trying to make Tricky fall over,” “yes I can see he’s laughing but…I think it might end in tears”, “come out now Tricky that’s enough..” and you tell me loudly MORE DUMPING. MINE WANT MORE DUMPING.

See here’s the thing, I was/am the complete opposite to you. Fearful, cautious, responsible, wilts under stern gaze of authority. And these things were evident when I was two. I had a little sister I adored and was constantly reminded that I was mummy’s helper. And with all my meek, cautious ways, I still had accidents. I dropped bricks on my toes and had prangs on my bike. It happens.

I don’t want to be the mother who says No all the time, the one that says be careful darling and that’s enough and slow down. Because I think maybe I had a mother like that and while I can’t remember her telling me those things, in my mind that voice is still there.

Except, that distant voice has been superceded by my own booming foghorn: Don’t show your work, Don’t put yourself out there you’ll only be humiliated, It’s better not to do anything than to fail, You’ve been rejected and that’s your fault for trying in the first place…

And so while I don’t want you to be hurt or injured, I also don’t ever want you to be afraid of trying things, of taking risks, of embarking in a struggle, of putting yourself on the line.

Somehow your father (who was almost the complete opposite to me, with the scars to prove it) and I have to teach you how to weigh up the risks involved, how to value the potential wins and assess the potential losses.

And how to get up and try again no matter what the outcome.

And bugger me that seems a hard lesson because I don’t even know that I’ve learned it yet.

Wonderful, yet terrifying.
Your very own


Mima said...

OG, another beautiful letter, Tricky is a very lovely little boy, I hope that you will get these made into a book for him, and then keep a hold of the book until he is old enough to appreciate it!!

I'm more like you than Tricky, a bit cautious about how I do things, it must be terrifying to watch him jump into things, but I can understand when you say that you don't want to be that voice - but you do really well if you can stop yourself!

Em said...

I'm also cautious. E is like me in that respect, but M is more adventurous. Scares the crap out of me, but I have to let her take her lumps.

Betty M said...

I do too much of the slow down, be careful, get off that sheer precipice of a wall with my two. Definitely cautious. But show me the mother who isn't - really I don't think one exists or if they do its only because they staple their lips together when they go out.

Betty Flocken said...

How wonderful Tricky is! How wonderfully you describe him.
With us, it's always been Paul's voice.. watch his/her neck! Watch him. HOLD HER HAND. Watch your step!!! He still says that to me all the time. My kids ignore his dire warnings, just as their mother did some twenty years ago.