You know how they say women are difficult to read? Well, I hate to do our fairer sex a disservice, but I think I’m starting to agree. Or at least, my daughter is difficult to read.
I don’t remember The Boy being complex at this age. As far as I can recall, he has always been pretty easy to understand. As long as he has a ready supply of food, water and love, he’s usually perfectly happy. The Baby, however, seems to be a rather more complicated character. And working out what makes her tick is fascinating.
Sometimes, it’s blatantly obvious what The Baby is thinking. I don’t need an interpreter to realise that when she’s hanging off my leg in the kitchen, she wants something to eat, or that when she climbs onto my lap and starts saying, ‘row, row, row,’ I’m expected to oblige. But at other times, I can only guess at what’s going on inside her head.
Our recent week away from home, for example, seemed to throw her into a hundred small fits of turmoil. For the first 12 hours of our holiday, she started whimpering the second The Boy, DH or I left the room. In an unfamiliar place, she clearly wanted all three of us in her sight at all times, to make sure we weren’t going to disappear forever. By the second day, she’d warmed up, but then we visited my aunt, and again, the change of scene totally unnerved her, and she clung forlornly to my hem, asking to, ‘Go car.’
Seeing The Baby so out of sorts in a strange environment made me wonder what was going through her mind. At 15 months, she has no concept of holidays, so did she think we’d left our home behind forever? Was she, all the time we were away, longing for her own toys, her own bedroom, her own garden? Did she think we were going to abandon her in this unknown place?
As the week passed and The Baby relaxed, again, I wondered what she made of what was going on. Had she by now forgotten that her own home existed?
That question was answered when we arrived back on Sunday. As we walked up the path towards the front door, she was almost jumping out of my arms. I have never seen anyone so pleased to be home; clearly, she hadn’t forgotten it for a second.
There have been other occasions lately on which The Baby’s understanding of the world has intrigued me. For example, when we drop The Boy off at school in the morning, she doesn’t bat an eyelid, but when we left him for his first session at Beavers just before half-term, she howled. I can only assume that she thought we were dumping him in this strange place for all eternity. She cheerfully says bye-bye to her daddy when he heads out to work every morning, but when he left for the office on Monday, after a week at home, she wailed, as if to say, ‘Hang on – I thought you didn’t have to do this any more!’ And who knows what’s going through her mind when, in the middle of the night, I hear her shouting ‘bad!’ or ‘miaow!’ from the darkness of her bedroom.
It must be confusing being 15 months old and trying to make sense of the world around you. But it’s also confusing to be a mummy to a 15-month-old and trying to make sense of your toddler. Fortunately, though, we do have a universal language that neither of us can misinterpret. It consists of cuddles, kisses, songs and endless, endless reading of We’re going on a Bear Hunt. Nine times out of 10, it’s just what we both need to defuse the mutual frustration and misunderstanding.
Now what are the chances of that working when she’s a teenager…?