Before I had my first baby, I wondered why mothers talked so much about their craving for adult conversation. After ten years of working in a large company, I craved being with someone who couldn’t talk back to me. It only took about a month of motherhood before my other new-mum friends and I were spending hours together so that we could remember how to speak normally rather than in the sing-song three-pitches-higher-than-normal voice to which we were becoming accustomed. At the end of a day spent alone, I would regale my husband with astonishing tales of how the only person I had spoken to all day was the man behind the post office counter – if the grunt in response to a request for stamps can pass as ‘talking’.
Three and a half years on, and I can hardly hear my own thoughts for all the babbling that goes on in our house. To be fair to him, Bigger Boy is way beyond the point of babbling and making impressive inroads into subjects such as Why Bones Don’t Ever Decay (with particular reference to dinosaurs) and Why We Don’t Have Our Own Space Rocket (and therefore cannot visit the moon this weekend, and probably not next weekend either). Developing expertise in these areas does involve, however, hours of interrogation, with me being held prisoner until all questions have been answered to his satisfaction. His line of questioning is ruthless yet minimal, intimidating its subject in a way that any CIA official would admire. The other day on a twenty-minute walk home we started with the subject of ‘where did I come from?’ (they start early these days) and ended up working our way onto the composition of fingernails. The only word that Bigger uttered during the whole exchange, albeit approximately a hundred times, was ‘why?’
Littler Boy, in the meantime, is less exhausting. His current talking points are what he would and would not like. Under the short list ‘What I Would Like’, which consists entirely of food items, are chocolate, biscuits and sweets. Needless to say, we generally ignore him when he asks for anything. Not because we don’t want his teeth to rot, but because he can’t be heard over Bigger’s incessant jabbering. ‘Mummy, why isn’t it snowing today?’ (‘because it’s August’) and ‘are we going to Granny and Grandad’s house later?’ (‘no, they live in France’) come interspersed with a distant yet insistent call of ‘chocolate’ as we field the enquiries.
Littler Boy is going through an interesting phase where he answers all questions with ‘Saturday’. So as long as we ask him questions such as ‘what is the official day of rest in Israel?’ and ‘in folklore, which is the preferred day to hunt vampires?’, he is certain to get the answer right.
Who says that conversing with toddlers can drive you crazy?