It didn't really come naturally to me, motherhood. What? I'm just being honest. I used to always forget to talk to my son. I had this book by Miriam Stoppard – or maybe it was one of those What to Expect When You're Expecting ones – and it said to talk to your baby whilst you got him dressed. It said to tell the baby every item of clothing you were putting on him, like: Now I'm putting on your babygro, now I'm putting on your bootees.
So I'd start out okay enough. I'd be, all like: “Now I am putting your nappy on you!” But I just wasn't any good at talking to someone who didn't speak back to me. I'd just forget to carry on talking. And then I'd suddenly notice he was fully dressed. And I'd completely forgotten to do that whole talking thing. I'd look at him, all fully-dressed, and quickly whisper: “Now I've put all your clothes on you.”
People always thought I was exaggerating about my not speaking to him problem, but I knew it was true, especially when he started talking. His first words were all German: “toto” for car, “bow-wow” for dog, “blau” for Schrippe (no, we weren't sure why either), and that was even though he was at home with me, on his own, all day long. I don't know. I was just crap at talking to someone who didn't talk back.
I got better and better at the whole Motherhood Malarkey the more he spoke. He made a joke at one point that was kind of a turning point for us. I told him to finish off his potato and he grinned at me and said: “Not Toto – Car da!” He used to call cars “totos”. I thought it was hilarious. And then this other breakthrough was when we went to Cafe Adler with my old man. My dad tried to get Rico to order for him, coz he could speak German. My dad said to Rico: “Can you order me an elephant sandwich?”
Rico said: “Nicht hab Elfun sandwich!”
My dad said to me: “What's he say?”
I said: “He says they don't have any elephant sandwiches.”
And then my dad made a really brilliant Dad Joke, it was perfect, basically, it was a really perfect Dad Joke, like it kind of couldn't be better, you know how when they all realize in Narnia that they did actually die in the train crash and then Aslan morbidly just like takes them to like that magic Narnia that is even better than the real Narnia, the sun's all shinier and everything's even more perfect than it was and everyone looks happy, only you kind of realize that they are actually dead, it is slightly depressing – in that Narnia, this is the Dad Joke dads always make. My dad said: “What's the matter, did they run out of bread?”
But the best bit was on the U1 on the way home. We sat on the U1 on the way home and Rico laughed and said : “Dadhus sagen Elfun sandwich!” I really knew I loved him then. I mean, don't get me wrong, I always knew I loved him, but I just realized it a bit more when he started saying stuff.
Anyway, now he's not just talking, he's bloody reading on his own. Now he's really independent and stuff. He reads words in books and he doesn't know how they're pronounced. He pronounces “Gee!”, ghee and he pronounces “Blimey”, bleemy. He doesn't need me anymore. Well, he does, a little bit, to tell him how to pronounce gee and blimey but you know what I mean.
Also, we're on an anti-kissing training programme. This is because in the third grade we won't want to kiss at all anymore. Apparently.
“Third grade kids are pretty old, Mum. They're practically teenagers. And you know what teenagers are like. They hate kissing mums.”
Our anti-kissing programme involves only being allowed to have three goodnight kisses a week. Three. It's like we're on an austerity package with bloody kisses. Hugs are allowed, though, thank fuck. I don't know how long for, though. I hope we make it to third grade alright. I hope he weans me off slowly.
One thing I really love about him, though, is his specific ideas about teenagers. They're very specific. He basically sees them in the way right-wing Americans view Muslims and/or feminists. He has very, very specific thoughts on what they're like, without actually knowing any. This is us, last week:
Rico asks me, “Mum, will you please let me be a proper member of Club Penguin?”
I replied, “No.”
“But you know that means I will never be a proper member of Club Penguin – in my LIFETIME?”
“No, it doesn't.”
“Yes, it does.”
“No, when you have the €4.95 a month to spend on Club Penguin, you can join. I'm not stopping you. I'm just not paying for it.”
“You mean when I can pay it, I can join?”
“Yes. When you can pay it, you can join.”
“But Mum! That's so unfair! By the time I can afford to join, I won't want to anymore.”
“You don't know that.”
“Yes, I do.”
“By the time I can pay €4.95 a month, I'll be a teenager. And you know how teenagers are like.”
Him (mournful sigh), “Mum, the thing with teenagers is. They just. Don't. Like. Penguins.”