Today, as well as being the the festival of the French community of Belgium, it is my parents’ 39th wedding anniversary and the boys’ first birthday. I spent more time than you could possibly imagine would be necessary putting together a slideshow of their first year. Time when, perhaps, they might have appreciated a little attention, it being their birthday and everything. Oh well.
At the end of August, the boys started to crawl. Can I tell you how glad I am that they waited 11 months to do this? They are putting their new found skills to devastating effect. As I can only be in one place at a time, when I am minding them, I tend to encourage the Princess to pitch in “Is Daniel putting his hand in the plughole again?” “No, Mummy, he’s pulling out the plug from the plughole.” Only this morning while I was in the shower, I heard her admonishing Michael “What is that in your mouth? Spit it out, give it to me.” I emerged dripping from the shower to see her holding aloft a small piece of plastic. That’s a good child, ensuring her brothers’ survival to see another day. She’s almost as good as her father whom I found one morning mopping up a patch of vomit in the middle of which was the piece of sweet wrapper on which Michael had been choking moments earlier. When we were at home in Cork, I myself found Michael meditatively sucking on a curtain hook which, somewhat to his chagrin, I removed from him. My favourite great risk though was the time we found him snuggled up to an empty plastic nappy bag which he had managed to reach by stretching his hands to maximum extent from within his cot. Meanwhile, Mr. Waffle tells me that one night he went in to comfort a howling Daniel, took him into the bed in their room and awoke some time later with a start to see Daniel sleeping peacefully on the floor. The other day I heard a roar from the hall and went out to find that Daniel had pulled a chair on top of himself and was lying sprawled on the floor with a lump the size of a small egg over his right eye. Danger Michael, as we think of him, has managed to move the stand holding in place the full length mirror in our bedroom and, in a delightfully dramatic moment, I was able to save him from being squashed by catching the mirror just before it flattened him. I also see real potential for their favourite game of playing peekaboo together on either side of a door to end in disaster and bloody digits and foreheads. As Mr. Waffle says, it will be a miracle, if they reach the age of reason.
They do so many things now and they are changing so fast, I feel I can’t keep up. They both do lots of imitating. Michael does an Indian whoop “awa, awa” and puts his hand in front of his mouth. Daniel flicks his lips with his fingers. They both do roly poly with their hands and clap when you say clap handies. When you say “no” Daniel shakes his head vigourously and when you say “yes” he inclines his body forward from the waist. Michael waves when you say “salut” (the creche) and both of them do the movements to one of the Princess’s songs from school. They adore the telephone and I have only to say the word for both of them to zoom towards the delightful object. Michael picks up the receiver, hands it to me and when I say “it’s for you” and hand it back, he makes a sound along the lines of “ang” which, I believe, is his version of hello. Daniel gets more of a kick from pressing the little buttons. They both say “Mama” and I’m pretty sure that they know what it means, particularly Daniel who has a very imperious tone when demanding my attention.
What is wonderful is that they have started to play together. I remember that when the Princess was this age, she had no interest in other babies but the boys really do seem to enjoy each other’s company and from the start of this month have played peekaboo together and laughed together. Of course, the flip side of this is that they have also started to injure each other (as though their negligent parents and the fixtures and fittings didn’t present sufficient dangers) and that they have to compete for parental attention and toys. Mr. Waffle calls Daniel “the gentle giant”* as he never takes anything from Michael. Michael, however, is always swiping stuff from Daniel with an air of mild abstracted interest. Daniel is never less than horrified by these thefts, turning an alarming shade of red and howling loudly (and he can howl very loudly) but he rarely tries to take back his object of desire; he just sits there protesting until an adult intervenes and returns it to him. It is strange that they are so very different in this regard. Generally, Daniel is much more self-sufficient whereas Michael sticks his arms in the air to be picked up the moment he sees me approaching.
In some ways, it has been a long year. They have been sick often, colds and coughs (though incidentally, Daniel’s perma conjunctivitis seems to have cleared up) and, particularly memorably, chicken pox. They will not sleep which is grim. Pathetically, over the summer Michael, took to howling himself to sleep sitting up, so we found him asleep bent over with his head on his knees. We’ve moved on from that, but they still don’t sleep. Please do not issue advice on this. No, really, please. Overall, though, things are getting easier and they are so funny, so affectionate and so lovely that I think that we are quite extraordinarily forunate. Happy birthday, boys.
*Doubtless with the frantic crawling Daniel will soon stop being super chubby and I am a little sad about that. His grandfather says that cuddling him is like cuddling “a sack of spuds”