Let’s face it - parenthood is a total guessing game.
From the very first day you bring your baby home from the hospital, you haven’t really got the slightest clue what they want. Are they hungry? Hurting? Do they want a drink? Are they too cool? Too warm? Do they fancy going out for a walk, or are they more in the mood to lay on a cosy activity mat and stare at a nice mobile?
I spent the first year of my daughter’s life gingerly attending to (what I hoped were) her needs and just praying that I was somewhat close to hitting the mark. Her daddy and I spent months in deep (one-sided) conversation with her, reading books and singing songs at every opportunity as we frantically pumped her full of as much vocabulary as we could manage, so that she could hurry up and learn to speak English, and then be able to tell us exactly what she needed.
This week, our efforts were rewarded.
It happened in the kitchen while I was making her dinner the other night.
“Imogen, do you want a drink?” I asked rhetorically, my hand already reaching for her cup, as my 16-month-old skirted around my knees playing with her favourite Sofia The First figures.
“No,” she said clearly, before dashing into the living room to carry on her games, leaving me stunned.
Question asked, question answered. Job done.
It may just have been the proudest moment of my life to date. Okay I know that sounds a little silly, but seriously, imparting a language to another human being feels pretty fantastic. And it doesn’t end there. There’s been a new word every few days for the past couple of months, and her succinct and clear delivery is enough to put the wordy among us to shame. I mean honestly, how much time do you think we would save ourselves every day if we reduced our long, drawn-out sentences to the punchy, matter-of-fact instructions of my toddler?
One word answers are the key - More, Book, Up, Ball, Peppa (that last one means TV).
And now with the addition of the word ‘no,’ I will never again need to worry if what I’m giving her is the right thing. Because she’ll be the first to tell me it isn’t. And that’s what I honestly thought.
Until later that night when I realised that she doesn’t yet know how to say ‘yes,’ meaning ‘no’ is her response to anything with a questioning inflection. It turns out that her tears are, in fact, the only true way to establish whether or not what I’m doing is correct.
* Nik Brear