Here is Henry.
He is two-and-a-bit, and watching a ten-minute YouTube video comprised entirely of trains whizzing through platforms at high speed (who makes these?!).
‘So big and so fast!’
[personal favourite] ‘Oh goodness, that’s a big train!’
The talking is incessant. He parrots everything, and knows it’s a trick we find hilarious. I see a lot of myself in him, which is strange: wordy, impatient, wanting validation. Sometimes it’s my voice that comes out of his mouth. That’s strange too, finding out the things you say most often.
‘Steadyyyyy! Steady Henry!’ (This is something he says when he’s doing something dangerous. When you have a boy like Henry, you need a good stock of synonyms for ‘careful!’)
‘You haf a nice sleep, Mummy? Henry haf a nice sleep.’
‘Listen. LISTEN. LISTEN, YES PLEASE.’
He still eats an adult-sized portion of banana porridge (‘nana possiss’) every morning, and so I don’t worry too much about how much he eats the rest of the time. Though in fact he’s a lot better at mealtimes than he was. He loves toast so much that he has no concept of bread, and thinks every loaf is just toast-in-waiting. He eats ketchup with a spoon.
He is under the impression that he runs this joint. We clash a lot. I am trying to ride easily over the tantrums, lightfooted, bearing in mind that after two comes three, four and five. Some minutes I succeed. Some minutes I call him all sorts of names in my head so that none of them come out of my mouth. When he’s cross, he flounces over to the freezer and sweeps off the magnetic letters to the floor. Then he turns slowly around to look at me, eyebrows all ‘YES. THAT’.
I have to say no so often that I try to say yes whenever I can. This is why he’s sat next to me wearing his dinosaur backpack. Which he wore all night, in bed. The other night he wore his coat with the hood up. Toddlers are weird.
Every evening we run through the list of large animals that are not waiting in the dark at the bottom of our stairs.
‘Mummy, no tigers?’ ‘No tigers’.
‘No sharks?’ ‘No sharks’.
‘No bears?’ ‘No bears’.
‘No dragons?’ ‘Definitely not’.
The other night he put his head on one side, and said ‘I luff yooooou!’ in a sing-song voice. First time ever. This wild boy, all sweetness for a second. I will never get tired of that.