Archive for the ‘Paternal Thoughts’ Category

Cross-generational Continuity

I was watching the bedtime story on CBeebies with the Little Monkey last week, and was pleasantly surprised that it was read by Floella Benjamin. She looked pretty much exactly how I remember; she’s barely aged a day since Play School in the eighties. I was pleased because I rather like it when happy memories of my childhood become those of my child. Although, I don’t really have particular memories of Baroness Benjamin, it’s more that she represents a nostalgic miasma of stories and windows, Humpties and Jemimas.

More specific memories arise from the Usborne books illustrated by Stephen Cartwright; they’re the ones with a little duck peeping out from somewhere on every page. The Little Monkey is particularly taken with the ‘Going to a Party’ story in his Little Book of First Experiences, because it includes a ghost. He loves ghosts at the minute. Having to read the same books over and over again can be tiresome, but the detail in the Cartwright illustrations staves off boredom; there’s a lovely one with a mother at the end of a day, having taken 3 children to the doctor, sitting in a chair having a cup of tea, looking shattered as the children play around her feet. Plus, there’s the duck to spot, which remains fun, 30+ years after I was first doing it…

Daddy: Funny, but not very good

A wistful young fellow

In my last post, I wrote about how the Little Monkey tells us when an animal noise is, in his opinion, “not right”. I thought I was being clever when, on being told that my elephant trumpeting was not up to snuff, I responded to my young critic with “Daddy’s not very good at elephants; Mummy’s better at elephants”. Being a little word sponge, he quickly picked up the phrase, and it seemed to assuage his irritation at my ineptitude at animal mimicry. (Although, to be fair, I do a pretty decent walrus, and my mooing is beyond reproach.) Which would be great, if he hadn’t started saying the phrase “Da-da not ver’ good” in isolation, without any context. I was merrily getting him dressed after his bath tonight when this phrase was quickly followed up with “Muh [Mummy] ver’ good”. I know it’s easy to erroneously project non-existent intentionality onto such utterances, but I got the impression he knew he was being cheeky. (Mrs. Monkeyshines denies coaching him, and I think I believe her…)

Waiting for a train in Thomas
hat and mittens

However, I do take consolation in the fact that I am deemed funny by the Little Monkey, indeed, sometimes I’m “ver’ ver’ funn'”. Moreover, I’m able to elicit this phrase at any time, due to some inadvertent Pavlovian conditioning. It started when we went to Saffron Walden museum, and the Little Monkey was playing in the sand pit (which contains various treasures to uncover archaeologist-style with a brush). When he’d had enough, I exaggeratedly brushed my hands together to get the sand off them, and to induce him to do the same. Which he did, finding the process absolutely hilarious. We did it over and over, long after the sand had gone, and eventually he told me “Da-da ver’ ver’ funn'”. Repeating the actions for his mother’s benefit, and on subsequent occasions, remains chucklesome sans sand, and he invariably repeats the phrase. So, when we have guests, all I need to do to get a bit of funny-dad kudos is brush my hands together…

A Long Sentence for a Little Monkey

When I last wrote about the Little Monkey’s communication skills, about a year ago, he was just about signing “more”. Now, the 50-odd signs he knew have fallen by the wayside, in favour of increasingly complex, and charming, phrases and sentences. I think the longest sentence to date is “Mummy said ‘Oh my word, it’s very bumpy at the Jo Jingles car park'”. Perhaps a bit of context is necessary here. Jo Jingles is a song and activity class he goes to (which he absolutely loves, and where he has honed his ‘sleeping bunny‘ to a professional standard, extending even to snoring noises while lying down). And the car park at the village hall where it takes place resembles a recently-shelled, massively-cratered, war zone.

Also, I’ve translated what he actually said, a little bit. “Mummy” is pronounced “Muh”; for some reason, although we always refer to her as “Mummy”, he sees fit to reduce her to a single syllable. Perhaps it saves him some time and effort, since she looks after him all day, and he has to say it a lot. “Daddy” always gets at least two syllables, and sometimes, when he gets carried away, I can be “Da-da-da-da”. The repetition of a single syllable in multi-syllable words is typical of the Little Monkey at the minute, so “bumpy” is actually “bump-bump”, and “Jingles” is more like “Ji-ji”. This behaviour lends itself to a distinct way of expressing himself, as the syllable can be repeated more than is necessary for dramatic effect. For example, his toast this morning was “very crun-crun-crun!” (crunchy).

His interest in saying things himself, and in what Mummy and Daddy say, extends to what animals (and inanimate objects say). He’ll ask “what that?”, we’ll reply as appropriate (e.g. “llama”, “deer”, “plant pot”), and he’ll immediately follow up with “what he say?”. For many animals this is obvious (cows, turkeys etc.), and you can get enjoyably creative with others, such as making a spitting noise for llamas, and gnus saying [with gusto] “nu-nu-nu-nu”. Deers are “mostly quiet”, but sometimes make a mooing/humming noise, according to Mrs. MonkeyShines. This all sounds fairly straightforward, but difficulties arise because he remembers what everything says (even though this doesn’t stop him asking). I can’t make the deer noise properly, so when he asks me what they say, my attempts are greeted with a slightly cross “that not right!”. (He used to get a bit upset and say “Don’ want that one”, but he’s recently adopted a more world-weary, irritable tone; I know all children ultimately realise that their parents aren’t infallible and omniscient, but I hadn’t expected it to be quite so soon.)

So whenever Mrs. MonkeyShines and I come up with a new vocalisation, we have to confer with each other, to ensure consistency and thus the future happiness of our Little Monkey. And it’s getting increasingly complicated as some animals start to say phrases. Geoffrey, Toby’s favourite soft toy, is a giraffe, and some time ago Mrs. MonkeyShines and I thought it would be amusing to make him a Geordie. So he says “howay pet”, while all other giraffes make a leaf-munching noise. I still don’t know what a plant pot says, though.

The Little Monkey Has Afters

A monkey’s-eye view of dinner time, as the lad tucks into some duff. The music’s not especially apt, but its running time fitted perfectly with the pictures, and it is quite a lovely song. If you’re watching in expectation of a big pay-off at the end, you’ll be disappointed, this here is your cinéma vérité, relying on the charm of the central character to carry the film…

A Brief Snowy Sojourn

The Little Monkey, rather sensibly, is none too keen on playing in the snow; the snap below is the best one I got before the tears arrived. Still, he enjoyed watching his father making a snowman from the comfort of the warm dining room.

"Mother, I am altogether unsure about this..."

Snowy the Snowman

A handsome snowy devil

To compensate for the lack of adorable Little-Monkey-in-the-snow pictures, here’s a video of him being adorable in the playground last weekend. Ah, the simple pleasures of finding a stick and hitting things with it…

Ho-ho-ho, Merry Christmas!

Is it just me, or does Father Christmas get younger every year?


Laughing it up with Rudolph

Pat-a-cake with Mini-Santa

Taking a break from scoffing mince pies

"Yay, presents!"

Young Father Christmas. And his father?...

The Little Monkey’s First… Knock Knock Joke

The Little Monkey’s comedic potential begins to be realised…

Little Guitar Hero

Knopflerian skills, and the voice of an angel. Is there no end to this Little Monkey’s talents?

Toothy Chuckles

It’s amazing how some tiny toothy-pegs can transform one’s perception; they make it seem like the Little Monkey is no longer a baby, even if he isn’t quite toddling unaided yet. I think it helps that he has recently crossed a threshold in both making himself understood, and being able to respond to us and the world in such a way that we realise how much he understands. The other morning in bed he surprised me by reaching for the clock-radio, then doing one of his insanely-cute dance moves, to tell me that he wanted to listen to some tunes (the boy is a dancing machine, I tell you, a dancing machine).

The Monkeyshines family recently spent a few days in Dublin (where the video above was filmed) and the Little Monkey was an absolute delight. One expects, or at least hopes for, the loving bonds that arise between oneself and one’s offspring, but I hadn’t anticipated how much I would enjoy his company. I realise this won’t necessarily always be the case, so I’m glad to be able to take advantage while I can…

A Birthday Boy

Toby is 1!

We spent the Little Monkey’s first birthday in Dublin, so the poor boy didn’t get a proper party, but he did get a day out at the beach, fish and chips, and some cake (liberally adorned with fruit, which got scarfed down first…)

Happy Birthday to you...

... Happy Birthday to you...

... You look like a monkey...

... And you smell like one too!