Thursday 26 February 2009

A cat, a puppy, and a pair of idiots...

I walk in through the front door after a long day. As I hang my coat up, I hear the thud of tiny little feet, and my youngest daughter, now two and a half, stomps the length of the hall towards me from the kitchen.
I am often struck, at moments like this, in just how different she is from her elder sister. Our eldest is shy and restrained, not prone to showing affection and often not that keen to admit when she wants to receive it - she will, at most, lean against your hip in an offhand way when she is feeling particularly tender, but will do so in such a way as to suggest that she is slightly tired and you are merely conveniently positioned as something for her to rest up against. Sometimes I think she is like a cat: cool, detached and mysterious, giving nothing away, ostensibly happy to share your house and your dinner and even the sofa, but who subtly lets you know that you may only tickle its ears when it suits them for you to do so...
By contrast, the little one is like a bouncy puppy, open and affectionate, with whatever emotion she is feeling at any particular moment written large on her face. She is always demanding to be picked up and hugged, showering you with kisses at bedtime, and rushing at you every time you come through the front door. The last of these is a joy for me, and as she rushed towards me I crouch down with my arms open wide. She skids to a halt in front of me.
"Hello sweetheart" I say.
"Hello, idiot" she replies.
There is a pause. Ah, this is new, I think. I try again.
"Hello, sweetheart."
"Idiot," she says gleefully. "You are an idiot."
"You mustn't say that word to Daddy. It's not nice."
"Stop it. Now."
I step into the front room. My wife and eldest daughter are huddled on the sofa hugging their knees, while something with pastel hues and soft melodies plays on the television. There is a palpable air of tension in the room.
As I stand in the doorway, the youngest pushes her way between my legs and marches into the room.
"Idiot" she says over her shoulder.
"I see she has learned an exciting new word today?" I ask my wife.
"We are not talking about" she replies, through gritted teeth. "We are ignoring it. We are ignoring it, until that she decides it is not worth saying, because it is no longer getting to me any more."
"Oh, really? How is that working out?"
"Idiot" calls a little voice.
"Not great, so far."
"No, I thought I could sense that."
"You are an idiot."
"Where did she learn this?"
"I am not quite sure.." replies my wife, with a meaningful look at our eldest, who goes into her best sphinx impression, and suddenly seems transfixed by the TV and mysteriously unaware of all that is going on around her.
I sink into the chair and nod at the television. "Well, she certainly didn't learn it from 'In the night garden'..."
"Hello, idiot..."
"She's too young to understand. She has no idea what the word means..."
"Yes, I realise that."
Three of us sink into silence. The fourth marches up and down the length of the sofa, pointing at the rest of us in turn and saying "You're an idiot. You are an idiot. Idiot. You idiot.."
I put up with this for a full ten seconds before clearing my throat.
"I have further questions..." I announce.
"Go on..." says my wife.
"Why is she naked, except for her welly boots? Because I have to say, I might find this a bit easier to bear if she wasn't. It kind of makes it extra patronising."
"Idiot, Daddy."
"She asked to take her clothes off, because she was hot. It's nearly bath time, so I thought it was OK."
"I see. And the boots?"
"She didn't explain. She just went out into the hall and came back into the room wearing them."
"Did you ask her about them?"
"Yes. See if you can guess what she said...?"
At this point I snap. "Stop it! Stop calling us idiots! It is not a nice word, and I have had enough. I am not an idiot, and you are the one marching up and down in a pair of pink boots with your bottom out..."
Silence falls for a few seconds.
"Upsie-daisy..." burbles the TV
"Bottom!" says our eldest, starting to giggle. "You said bottom. Bottom! Bot-bot!"
"Idiot!" laugh the youngest.
My wife draws her hands slowly down her face and sighs,
"We should have wine with dinner," I suggest to her. "Lots and lots of wine..."


hutters said...

Paul, my wife has just wiped away the tears from my eyes, this is hilarious yet so personal - we could replace "idiot" with "stupid" and "pink boots" with "bob the builder boots" and have a very similar story. BTW I just bought 24 bottles of wine from Morrisons at lunchtime ;)

Anonymous said...

Very funny and so familiar. Is it time for a glass yet? Lisa.