A is for crocodile

Well I never, the Government has applied logic and seen reason and withdrawn their proposals to increase the ratio of children to childcare workers. Hurrah. Meanwhile, at the other end of the political spectrum, toddler boy, now aged 3, is applying his own formidable logic in trying to make sense of the complex world around him.

Recently we were reading an A-Z animal book. ‘A is for Crocodile’, he announced confidently. Well, an Alligator in my book (and his) looks like a Crocodile, and let’s face it, there are more sensible animals beginning with ‘A’ to start a 3 year old off on the road to reading. Enter stage left the Anteater – a topical creature, its arrival at London Zoo was reported in the paper the other day like a film star tipping up to a premier. I could take toddler boy to see it but, like a celeb, it comes out at night. The zoo has extended its opening hours and set up a wine bar so that grown ups can sip Shiraz while it peers at them through the bars of its cage. Another option for the alphabet book is, of course, the Aardvark. And the Aardvark has form with 3 year olds – 10 years ago it was the favourite animal of granddaughter 1 (now aged 13) on a nursery trip to Colchester Zoo. And although it’s not as glamorous as an Anteater, it does have the bonus of starting with two ‘A’s.

We arrived at Y. ‘Y is for ‘pnu’ said toddler boy firmly, gazing at the picture. ‘He means gnu’, offered his mum helpfully, not knowing where he’d got it from – gnus are not often seen grazing in the green fields of Essex. ‘No, it’s a yak’, I ventured. He thought for a moment – like someone in a meeting as I remember from work – to show that he had taken what I’d said on board,  ‘It’s a puyak’, he said, demonstrating an early capacity for compromise. ‘Puyaks’, he told me, ‘live in the deep dark wood of the Gruffalo’s child.’ Of course they do – that’s where all large animals and scary monsters live. And puyaks eat things that are red, such as apples – but obviously not tomatoes since toddler boy knows that puyaks, like Charlie’s sister, Lola, ‘will not ever, never eat a tomato’.

And sometimes with laser-like reasoning, he rejects what seem to be ridiculous suggestions. The other day he was dancing and hopping about outside like an erstwhile rainmaker, holding a plastic cup full of water over his head. ‘It’s raining, it’s raining’, he chanted as the drops fell plop on his head and made little spots all over the pavings. ‘Rain comes from the clouds,’ said the wise old granny. He stopped and looked at me witheringly. ‘No, gran,’ he said, ‘rain comes from water.’

His choice of words and phrases seem very well thought out and he’s already added a couple of phrases to the rich tradition of rhyming slang. ‘Little Mix’ is weetabix, the rationale obviously being that the girl band, Little Mix, is a fabricated conception like weetabix  (if a little more synthetic). The back room is ‘the Mac room’ –  it’s his mum’s office with an Applemac which she uses for work. And when he was cold and needed a jacket he told me ‘I want the coolest one, gran’. Did he mean ‘cool’ in the sense of ‘not too warm’ or ‘cool’ as used by young people and boy bands like One Direction, I wondered?  Silly old me, he selected, of course, a snazzy, sleeveless blue quilted zip-up jerkin with a chic metallic sheen. Like his eldest sister would say, ‘That boy is so-o-o cool.’

Having not only a great sense of style but also a firm grasp of reason, toddler boy knows that colours are colours, and clothes are clothes – some very dull, such as navy blue, grey and brown – usually trousers – and some ‘beautiful’ such as pink and lime green – usually skirts and dresses. At home he prefers the latter which give him the unencumbered freedom to pirouette around house and garden. He likes wearing bright colours (particularly pink) and a most misguided boy at nursery called him a girl. He strongly defended himself saying assertively ‘I am not a girl, I am a boy’ and the unfortunate child was omitted from his birthday party list. In fact, toddler boy’s sense of his place in the world is most perceptive. He’s not a fan of babies and when I pointed out that he was a baby once he said ‘I’m not a baby now, gran, I am a people’ which, as his mum pointed out, is a very complex concept indeed. Ok, maybe he’s not quite into understanding the issues much debated by philosophers such as humanity, equality, etc, etc, but it’s a start.

Other observations he makes can be similarly thought-provoking. I stopped the car recently to point out some horses grazing in a field. He gazed seriously at them for some time then said in a low voice, ‘Horses are very heavy, is it, gran?’ There was a pause and then he added, ‘Buttons [the family cat] is not heavy’. ‘Yes, they are’, and ‘No, he isn’t’, said I. But, I pondered, was this a stab at the concept of gravity? Or  philosophy, in a ‘He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother’ sort of way?

So it can be both challenging and illuminating when you try to look at the world from the perspective of a 3 year old. And maybe, just maybe, if the Government with all their experience of life put even half as much logic, thought and creativity into considering affordable childcare policy as toddler boy does into understanding the world around him, they might come up with something passably sensible.

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