Teddy is too young to start taking recreational drugs, or to bring home greasy-haired, monosyllabic partners with swear words tattooed on their forearms. So the one crushing disappointment he can throw at us is Parental Affection Switching (again with the bad acronyms – I really need to think these things through).
When he was teeny-tiny, lots of people (even me) would say of him, indulgently, “he’s such a mummy’s boy!” and that was great. I loved it. If he whacked that enormous great head of his on the fireplace (again), or had just woken up and was in a bit of a grump, or we picked him up from nursery together, it was always ME that he ran to, and would cling on to supertight. Ooh, it’s such a good feeling… I look at Dave in a slightly pitying way over his shoulder, unable to completely wipe the smile off my face in time.
I love my clingy, sensitive, mummy’s boy. And it turns out, from one of my infamous straw polls (of two people), that Teddy isn’t unique in this: my friends with boy babies have enjoyed stupendously affectionate, limpet-like children. I should probably pause here and bang on about gender stereotypes, and how it’s wonderful that we don’t force our babies into these roles, and how a “mummy’s boy” should be reclaimed as a beautiful, positive thing. And all this is true – although my inner feminist (who is a smaller, feistier, clear-visioned, more brilliant version of me, very good at blow-drying hair and simultaneously holding down a conversation about the situation in Gaza) is still a little nervy about Teddy’s love affair with all things with wheels. But that’s not the reason for all this.
The reason is much more selfish, as with many things to do with me (and SO WHAT). My little limpet has recently realised that he can switch his affections from one parent to another to wondrous and startling effect. One week, he’s MY little boy – he won’t let me go: not during breakfast, book-reading, or bedtime routine. There are blood-curdling screams if Dave picks him up, or changes him (obviously this one is a bit of a poisoned chalice), or dares to sing a song he’s not happy about. He will always quickly relent – but it’s that first, all-important moment. Which parent is he going to choose? And when he chooses Dave – without wanting to be melodramatic about it, it’s like my world has just caved in.
Dave, recently, has had more than a few weeks of being Teddy’s Favourite. That Teddy has just learnt how to kiss makes it all the worse. Daddy is getting kisses and intense, wriggling-bottom, can’t-quite-get-close-enough cuddles, and every time I try and grab a piece of the action, all I get is a solemn shaking head, and a low, “Wah wah wah” (this is not WAH, as in the noise a baby might make when it’s crying; it’s a precise, negative, “wah”). Which, in Teddy’s world, means, “No, mother, not now. Can’t you see I’m enjoying the attentions of my father? Please don’t touch me, especially not on my softy-wofty bits, and I don’t find raspberries amusing one bit. Unless daddy does them, in which case they’re screamingly hilarious. Watch!” To add insult to injury, he has in the last day or so made the switch from “Dada” to “Daddy”. Or, more realistically, a joyous “Daddeeeeeeeee!” I am still “Baba”. I’m simply not important enough for him to even try and attempt the letter M. Ingrate.
In a day or two (I hope), Teddy will swing back to being MINE, ALL MINE. And within hours, possibly minutes of that, I shall be complaining about it. It’s the earlier poisoned chalice I mentioned. When you are The Chosen One, only YOU can remove a pooey nappy; only YOU can make breakfast (while you precariously balance three-ton-Ted between bump and boobs, hovering dangerously over the lava-like porridge); only YOU are allowed to have him sitting on you while he watches the 27th episode of Sarah and Duck, eyes agog, wiping bits of omelette rhythmically into your jeans; only YOU are able to sing to him for 14 hours while he gently drifts off to sleep, clutching onto the small, really hurty bits of hair round the back of your neck.
Still want him back, mind.