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pigeon

I had never really noticed how many toy cars are installed in shopping centres until now. The ones that cost a pound for two minutes of gentle oscillation, whilst spouting some tinny catchphrases of the character its themed around. The kind that you find on piers, in supermarkets and arcades. They’re everywhere, aiming to both stimulate and pacify – to pacify by stimulating. I haven’t quite worked them out yet, but the boy has sussed them.

A fruit machine for toddlers they have flashing lights and buttons that will loop a demo in extremely short intervals, aiming to hook a near-by child and then frustrate them by being unresponsive until you cough up some change. Well little Jtown is unperturbed by this, he will b-line for the car, climb inside and press buttons multiple times and in different combinations until the demo plays. He will make some association between his actions and the result, creating some superstitious ritual like one of PT Barnam’s pigeons.

Lying and Bargaining

Opening the boy’s curtains of a morning I knocked over a twee little plant pot and broke it. He obsessed over this and kept voicing how I had broken the plant, accusing me, dobbing me in to a jury of plush toys. I tried to have him keep it a secret between us, coaching him to say that he didn’t know who broke it – and then I proceeded to interrogate him playing the role of mother. But rather than say he didn’t know he blamed it on a pirate. Saying that a he had come in and sliced the plant with his sword. Such imagination, the deceptive little bastard. Touche.

A day or so later I see a scratch on his head, I ask him what happened and he tells me that a dinosaur bit him, which is unlikely, and I’m realising that I’ve taught him to lie – but at least he’s doing it creatively.

In the last week or so I’ve noticed another jump in his language development and sentence-forming. He talks for stretches about one subject and is able to convey meaning, clearly emotionally involved in his stories. The other night I picked him up from nursery and driving home I asked what he wanted to do when we got in. Milk. Okay and do you want a biscuit? Loadsa biscuits. No you get one biscuit. Two biscuits. No, one biscuit. Big big big biscuit.

I might be projecting a bit here but I see the cogs turning, how he looks for loopholes, using his understanding and experience to get what he wants, or at least to try to. I’m learning a lot from this guy.

buttons

I rang my phone company to ask if I was due an upgrade. Two years overdue apparently. I knew it was an old phone but hadn’t quite figured. This phone, as it turns out, was the last-ditch effort to fend off the Minority Report future of screens and holograms: a Blackberry Classic, Classic in as much as it has a keypad. Alas now it is relegated and no more.

I had defined myself by it in some way, I had to. Inadvertently it had become a statement phone moving from an office into work with a younger crowd, who laughed and scoffed as though I had pulled out a pager or an unwieldy butt-plug – fucking millennials and their in-group conformity.

The reason for liking buttons, not just a dialpad but an entire QWERTY keypad replete with symbols and signs, is the feeling of permanence when you type, the analogue feeling of having performed an action with a beginning and an end. Swiping and screen-typing feels so perfunctory and pathetic, each action blurring into the next and just asking be ignored. The physical intersection, my fingertip pressing into the phone, as opposed to bouncing off of a flat surface, feels more real.

At least these were the thoughts and feelings that I told others and myself as I resisted the screen-based future that steadily proved itself inevitable. Even Noddy has himself an iPad for fucksake. Now I’ve upgraded to an old touchscreen which costs nothing and my bill has been cut in half. That was what motivated me but now I realise that the typing mechanism is a lot more intuitive than I had supposed it to be, and not only that, the fluid impermanence allows me to type so much quicker.

What I find so amusing about this is how I had my reasons initially, and then I just repeated them without thinking, without questioning, and stayed in my bubble until I found myself being proudly ignorant. Ah well, progress.

Pockets

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So nimble fingered is the child now that he can stow things away in his pockets. Up until this point, the pockets on his trousers were akin to the belly button on Adam – purely aesthetic, to make him blend in with the rest of us, to pretend he’s just like the rest of us. And now he is: collecting things he doesn’t need.

two

Fast approaching two years of age (24 months in parentspeak) we received a form that allows the men in white coats to track the boy’s development. Of course we treated the questionnaire competitively and were almost gloating when he would over-achieve a particular goal.

Can he name 4 parts of his body?

Four?! Hows about: shoulder, elbow, eyebrow and thigh. Do one bell curve.

Then of course we were met by some that he hadn’t quite achieved, or we hadn’t even thought to put in practice. And these were, as it turns out, quite huge – maybe even fundamental developments.

Does he refer to himself as I/Me?

Shit. We’ve raised a psychopath. Or a guru – referring to himself in third person like our own little Mike Tyson.

Mulling this over these last few weeks it seems to be a lot more complex than I first thought. How do you teach someone perspective without your own interfering. You refer to yourself as ‘I/me’, and somehow he is supposed to pick up on the fact that he should refer to you as ‘you’ and himself as ‘I/me’. It’s baffling really. I don’t know I manage, let alone teach it on.

I realise more and more the linguistic tricks I take for advantage. The synonyms, homonyms and word games of everyday. Somehow the little one has picked up on the fact that people share names, a la Nanny and Grandad. And I’m certain that he understands both two and too (meaning ‘as well’). He has a fluidity in language and isn’t hung up on a word meaning one thing and one thing only. His sole principle is to communicate something, not dressing it up and following grammatical rules, and yet he seems to have formed an understanding of the rhythm of language that he hears from others.

At this point in time he is forming 4-5 word sentences, if the words are crucial. If he only needs two words to communicate what he wants, he will often fluff up the sentence with some gibberish – knowing that when we talk there is more going on and so offering some noise as filler. I guess that is what we do on some level.

If he were to say ‘Fly gone window’ I know exactly what he is saying. But in mimicking the manner in which we speak, he protracts the sentence unnecessarily to ‘Fly baderrrra ferrba daaferr gone window’. As if we wouldn’t pick up on the nonsense sandwiched in-between. Or maybe he’s mocking our needless waste of breath, satirising us – the little fucker.

At least I can speak in first person.

the greatest pretence

Being a parent has thrown me through a number of existentialist ponderings.

All it takes is to recognise a small gesture or expression in the little one to make me realise that parts of my personality are merely biological quirks. I see the science-fiction philosophies of clones and time-travel bubble up in this version of me. Blended with another variable (she prefers Nicole) and placed into different circumstances, I realise that as much as I like to think that I am the thoughts behind my eyes, I am the product of my genetic make-up, and by extension so are these thoughts. From this crumbling perspective I watch as this 2ft replicant finds his own voice – both literally and figuratively.

I got to a point a couple of years ago when I started taking life seriously, acting more serious, pulling the appropriate serious faces and everything else it tells you in the pamphlet. I’m handed a child by fate (she prefers Nicole) and am expected to impart what little I think I know into this human child.

Hurled into the deep end and held under for a few seconds just so I know whose boss, I kick into gear and generate enough power to keep afloat. And then remembering I’m a legal guardian I kick a little harder for the extra weight and pretend I know what I’m doing – which from a distance can look like lot like flailing. Aerobic drowning maybe.

But that’s one lesson you pick up pretty early – everyone is pretending. As I heard one mother put it recently ‘life is the greatest pretence’. You pretend until you get a steadyfooting, before you`re hopscotching your way to the next thing, off balance but straightfaced and faking confidence until it becomes real confidence. The two actually aren’t that far apart.

Up until this point I had liked to think myself lucky for the temperament and general charm of the little one. Although quietly and in the privacy of my own mind I’m sure I put it down to a natural flair for parenting. Well that’s being tested now and I’m fast blaming the generic biological functions that all babies go through rather than my own shortcomings. Still, I’m not going to use the responsibility-relieving mantra ‘terrible twos’ – but it does seem awful convenientlike that on the brink of turning two he has started to test his boundaries and punch his keyworkers.

Now is the point where we impose boundaries and the proper way to be. Whilst I’m still naively challenging the status quo and questioning the system, I’m having to teach that self same system and impose it’s rules and regulations. It’s quite baffling really. I celebrate the little clone’s lack of inhibition and yet impinge on it with indoor voices and sensible attire. And who am I to say that his keyworker wasn’t asking for it.