I have come to the conclusion that there are three ages of childhood and that Marty is firmly in the first epoch, the age of “What?”
For the last 6 months our breakfast routine has gone pretty much like this:
Comfortably sat in his highchair, Marty surveys the morning’s breakfast arrangements. He now picks up his spoon, waves it under my nose and asks, “what?”
“It’s a spoon.”
He digests this for a few seconds then dips it into his porridge. “What?”
He looks at me as if he’s not sure I can be entirely trusted and then, as if to test me, points at his milk. “What?”
Patently unconvinced that I know what I’m talking about – and who can blame him for that - he now turns to his mother and repeats the entire exercise. This completed, he takes a few moments to ponder all this new and fascinating information. Then he sits back, pokes his porridge, sips his milk, examines his spoon... and it all starts again.
I’ve got to admit that in terms of wild excitement it’s right up there with drying paint but for some reason Marty himself finds it all totally fascinating.
It’s as if he’s thinking “But I’ve asked 15 times now and they STILL say it’s a spoon! A Spoon! Who would have thought? Wow!”
This routine continues for pretty much the entire day with breaks only for pooing and sleeping and the occasional wild stabbing at the sky and the cry of “Bane! Bane!” – which, in case you were wondering, is an aluminium cylinder with wings that is frequently found traversing the skies of the East Midlands.
I mentioned to a mate that I found all this “What, what, what?” a tad tedious and he pointed out that this stage will soon develop into the second golden age of childhood, the infamous age of “Why?”
By all accounts the age of “Why?” can last for years and years and leave a parent yearning for the halcyon days of “What?” or even for those far distant days of yore when it was just mummy, daddy and a bottle of wine.
I must admit that I'm actually looking forward to Marty asking “why?” all the time and I’m determined to at least attempt accurate and reasoned replies. Ok, in reality these good intentions will probably not even make it through the first weekend and I’ll no doubt be buying earplugs en masse before the month is out, but for at least a short time Marty will gain some erratic, and no doubt erroneous, wisdom.
I have been told that after four or five years the age of “why” gives way to a period of relative peace, until the teens arrive and the final age of childhood begins; the age of ‘Whatever!”
Strictly speaking this epoch is not just about ‘whatever’. The word ‘Urr!’ ,for example, is a popular means of expression, as is the age old cry of “I hate youuuuu!”
I can see why it all happens like this though. The age of ‘what?’ helps the child develop his language skills, the age of ‘why?’ helps develop their mind and the age of ‘whatever’ helps fray the bonds of parental love to such an extent that your child packing his bags and leaving the family home for good is now less of a nightmare and more a cause for wild celebration.