Two developments over the last couple of days from the J-Man: one big, one small.
The small first: speech.
When he was tiny, J was far more interested in stretching his limbs than his tonsils: more chair-climbing, less social climbing. We were a little worried (as first-time parents love fretting) that he wasn’t making eye contact, smiling, or babbling as quick as he might have done. We still worry a little, in our weaker moments, that his pronunciation is still a little eccentric.
But over the course of this year in particular his words have meshed together into phrases, his phrases into sentences. His sentences have been shaped into conversations, into arguments, into jokes. (He enjoys when we shake hands and say ‘How do you poo?’, for example.) He doesn’t always acknowledge me in conversation, but it’s quite apparent he knows how language should be used.
Each time he stays with family, his grasp of language seems tighter, his syntax and pronunciation a little sharper. The effort of making himself understood to someone else spurs on his linguistic evolution.
There are still some language niceties to be worked out, however. At the moment, we’re trying to move from ‘I want…’ to ‘Can I have…?’, looking to get that diffident English gene spliced into his talk. Although, in his defence, we usually ask him ‘Do you want…?’ so why wouldn’t he say that he wants. It’s as well he learns the harsh truth about British politeness now.
The big development is a little more earthly: toilet time.
As with the speech, I’d nervously eye toddlers and youngsters of J’s age and lower negotiatIng trips to the toilets with their carers. Dr L and I had an unofficial deadline of when J starts nursery school in January to get him dry, but we didn’t like the idea of ‘training’ him and hoped he would be able to tell us when he was ready.
In June, J-Bone decided that he was ready for the potty. Earlier this year, attempts to try out pants and potty were mildly disastrous – nine counts of the wet stuff all over the front room in just fifty minutes. The lure of his new Peppa Pig pants was not powerful enough: a tactical withdrawal back to nappies was in order.
But when on holiday in Pembrokeshire and enjoying some free bum time, J spontaneously decided it was time to point his pink pistol more appropriately. I’d already tried counting to ten while he sat on the potty to try and get him to stay long enough to conduct his dirty business, so when he took matters into his own hands, he told me to ‘start the numbers’. This was great news.
Another potty for upstairs and a toilet seat adapter were bought (I was chuffed when he chose pink for each) in readiness for the next stage. He was quite reluctant to use the toilet itself and would still only use the potty when he was free below the waist. But he would run into the kitchen to tell me when he’d done a wee, and there was still plenty of praise to be clapped and cheered in his direction.
But the last couple of days have seen J up his game – yesterday he used the toilet seat; he began to tell us when he needed to go, even if he was in his nappy.
Then, this morning, after he had crawled into bed with us, J announced he needed a poo. And he was happy to use the toilet. Ticker tape machines were loaded up. And a most satisfying plop it was.
So, I’m sending this message to my past self, as a voice from the future to ask Past Scruff not to stress about these markers and believe in the magic of kids to reach their conclusions when they’re ready.
(Tempting fate there, aren’t I?)
But wouldn’t I remember receiving that message?