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The babeling: One year and three weeks

The babeling took her first steps just before Christmas, but it’s only this week she’s taken walking seriously as a way of getting from A to B, or bookcase to sofa in her case.

It’s great if you can coincide learning to walk with having legs only a few inches long, double incontinence and a complete lack of self-consciousness. This really helps if you are standing around casually when your legs give away without warning, your bottom hits the floor and the impact topples you onto your back. It’s a shame she can’t also wear a nappy on her head, which is covered in bruises.

She is just gorgeous. I might get round to posting a photo, but that wouldn’t do her justice. It wouldn’t describe her sleepy solemn expression first thing in the morning or the way she puts her head on her sister’s shoulder when she wants a cuddle or the way she slaps her round bare tummy in the bath and giggles or her totally wicked laugh. I have a peek at her asleep before I go to bed, and those rounded cheeks and long, serene eyelashes and tiny chubby fists grab me somewhere in the solar plexus.

She is so unlike her sister at the same age. The Redster couldn’t be trusted with delicate toys or indeed plastic crockery on her highchair table, because everything got chucked on the floor. The babeling handles things carefully and tries to put them back where they belong, and she frequently eats off china if all the kiddy plastic stuff is in the dishwasher. On the other hand, if you left her unstrapped in the highchair for even a minute, she would throw herself off it head first.

She has already sussed that crucial difference in things to play with, i.e. things intended to be toys and Other Things, and no prizes for guessing which is more fascinating. Then there’s the things she finds to do with the stuff she is allowed to play with… the other night she amused herself on the floor while I read a story to the Redster. When I finally bothered to look at what she was doing (probably because she was squealing with frustration) it was to see her carefully poking things into the Redster’s boots and then trying to balance the boots one by one on top of the dressing up box, which is taller than she is. At a friends’ house the other day, attempts to amuse her so I could talk to the grown-ups were futile despite two bulging boxes of toys, until she discovered a plastic Ikea kids’ table with chairs, paper, pens and pencils. She removed two of the hollow legs from one of the chairs and painstakingly filled them with the pens. Happy for hours.

And so to bed, not because the babeling is likely to wake before 7am, but because the Redster will probably summon me at three to explain why I have given her water/not given her water/whether that is a monster by the window and can I please cut her toenails NOW.

Socks

The Redster: Four years and three months
Babeling: One year and a week

We have to put three schools down on the form.

The very best schools that people move house for and camp in the car park to get into (yes, I know I’m only talking about primary schools, but this is London) are way out of reach. We forgot to move house next door to one, or baptise our children into the Catholic church to get into the other.

That leaves: a church school that the Redster might squeak into but it’s looking tenuous – and we’d have to drive there; the nearest one, which is popular and OK, but got a very average Ofsted due to some dubious teaching; and a blank space for choice number three. I’d written off a couple as not having great Sats results, but a mum I spoke to persuaded me to go and check them out.

So yesterday I dragged the kids along to see a school which is avoided by the middle class suburb it’s situated in and got below average sats results, and I loved it.

I loved it for the following reasons:

– The headteacher is new. She is going to turn the school around. I believe her.
– Lots of green space outside.
– The library was appealing.
– The Victorian building had large airy classrooms with high ceilings.
– They all get swimming lessons, French, and violin as part of the curriculum. Violin!
– Part of the walk to school is alongside a canal. We saw a heron.
– A pure white cat with one green and one blue eye came some of the way with us.
– I think I’m ovulating and I love everything.

How else do you choose a school?

There’s the fact that a lot of kids come from backgrounds where they haven’t spoken much English until they come to school, because it’s not their first language, or because they have been dumped in front of a TV/playstation from the age of two. That’s the head teacher’s verdict, not mine. The head claims that children starting with a better grounding in English won’t suffer as a result.

Then, it’s very multi-racial. I experienced a frisson of white middle-class alarm at the thought; then I thought, why live in a multi-racial city and choose a mainly white school? Don’t I want the Redster to experience the real London in all its glory? Isn’t this our community? We already have a multi-racial household thanks to the presence of the lodger (and babyfather, who is Welsh).

So, we’ll see. One more school to look at, but I doubt it will get on my list unless we are accompanied there by a white albatross with one green and one purple eye. Then I will consider it seriously, unless, of course, I have PMT.

It was a promising evening.

We’ve put the children to bed and they are fast asleep, unlikely to wake us much before 7am; we’ve seen a light-hearted film together and drunk some wine; babyfather’s been off work all day so it feels like a holiday. Now it’s bedtime, and something is in the air…

As he undresses and slides under the covers, babyfather meets my eye and smiles.

‘I know it’s been a long time, so don’t get too excited,’ he murmurs, ‘but would you like to squeeze that blackhead on my back?’

Yes, married life is finally back to normal.

‘And then,’ he whispers, ‘maybe I could do that one on your neck…’