Most mornings, Teddy crawls into bed beside me and pats my hair while Keith and I mumble 'five more minutes' as many times as we can get away with. 'Good mama, ' Ted croons, patting, patting, breathing hotly and getting his fluffy hair up my nose. But when he is displeased with me, lately, he has taken to shouting 'Bad mama!' complete with accusatory pointing finger.
Rapid-fire, he hammered a series of questions at me yesterday. 'Why can't my hair talk? How do my legs know how to walk? Are there buttons inside my tummy like a computer? No? Then how does my body know how to eat?'
When he is sent to his room in disgrace, he stomps around, wailing and recounting his woes out loud. 'It's not fair I never did and it was an accident and I didn't and then Ivy did and she always has a million of them and I don't have any and oh my god, why hast thou forsaken meeeeeeeee?' Aftyer a while he gets it all out of his system and pops back into the big room. 'I'm happy now!' he announces.
Yesterday I had to instigate a specific reward system to stop him repeating the phrase 'put poo on Daddy's head.' It had become like a tic, a compulsion. He could not stop saying it, morning and night. For a week or two it was fine, sort of weird, but funny. We invented a hand gesture for it. We wrote a little song about it. But in the end, I hit the wall. 'Put poo on Daddy's head' was going to send me to an early grave. It was time for that particular over-firing synapse to go to re-education camp. The 'put poo on Daddys head' rewards chart.
Oh, that it should come to this.
It's a day of extremes, the day spent with a four-year-old. One minute, you are helping them make a dog out of a milk carton. They call the dog Mummy, carry it everywhere and teach it how to use the swing.
Then you are taking their dessert off them because they refuse to stop wildly swinging a toy metal fry-pan around the baby's head despite your escalating screeches of panic.
And then you have gotten a dirty novelty song stuck in your head and inadvertently taught it to them because it keeps slipping out of you in bursts. 'Ar - sol, ar-sol, a soldier I will be, two piss - two piss, two-pistols on my knee....'
But you have, thus far, stopped yourself from accidentally teaching them the last section, which sings about 'fighting for the queens country', with an unfortunately, yet hilarious, pause between the fifth and sixth syllables.