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Redster: Seven and a quarter
Cutester: Four

eggtastic!

True, she’s been four since just after Christmas, but I’ve decided on a new approach to the birthday / Christmas collision problem. She gets a (curt) nod towards her birthday on the day; then at the end of January we push the boat out and celebrate properly with an actual party. That way I get time to organise it, and she gets to be in a state of delicious anticipation for a whole month. Also, we’re not taking down the Christmas decorations (*sob*) – we’re getting ready for the party! (Phew. We were a hair’s breadth from a meltdown when I thought of that.)

The four-year-old Cutester really is a different animal. When she turned three we tried out swimming lessons – that’s the youngest they take them at the place where the Redster is supposedly learning to swim. It did not go well. She screamed, she wouldn’t get in, she didn’t want that teacher, she wanted this one, she didn’t want to get out, she was granted a whole extra half hour, she screamed, she didn’t want this teacher after all, she got out, she screamed… This week, we tried again, and she did exactly as she was told, with the teacher she was given, and grinned her head off throughout.

I was sitting a few feet away from the shallow end, where the lesson was taking place. The first thing they do is get a woggle (long bendy foam cylinder – haven’t you done aquaerobics?) and bend it round her like a rubber ring, fastened into a loop with a ring. Then, when it’s not her turn to be towed around the pool, she’s taken to the side to hang onto the handrail. (This always reminds me of when mother bats go out to hunt – apparently, they get hold of the baby bat which has been clinging to them all day, hang it onto something by its toes, and off they go.) The Cutester was not at all sure about releasing her death grip on the teacher to hold onto the rail, but she did it, one hand at a time. ‘High fives!’ said the teacher, holding up a hand. That was probably a tad unrealistic. The Cutester just looked at her.

By halfway through the lesson she was bouncing up and down in the water, trying out her toes on the rail, and just laughing to herself for sheer joy. It was priceless. They got to do jumping in, too, and the whole time she was standing on the side she was both shivering violently and grinning from ear to ear.

I hope she fares better than the Redster, who has been in the beginner’s group since time immemorial.

‘Do you think she’s close to doing a width yet?’ I asked her teacher, who is the spit of Barack Obama, one week.

‘She’s been doing widths for ages,’ he said, looking at me strangely.

‘Oh,’ I said. I’d been too busy entertaining the Cutester on the poolside to notice.

‘How come you can do widths now?’ I asked the Redster as she got changed.

‘The teacher told us to stop putting our feet down, otherwise.’

‘Otherwise what?’

‘Just OTHERWISE.’

‘What did you think would happen if you put your feet down?’

She shrugged. ‘I thought he’d probably let the sharks out.’

So, my little width-swimmer, entirely motivated by fear. Except she’s clearly forgotten about the sharks the last few times I have paid attention, and she’s still in the beginner’s group.

Redster: Seven
Cutester: Four at last

Exploring at the Natural History Museum

We were still in the cafe

…looking for a polar bear in the Natural HIstory Museum. The plastic pith helmet, binoculars and backpack were supplied by the museum and you had to follow the clues inside (white fur, black claws and enormous fangs – somewhere in Mammals – hmmm).

Spot the Diplodocus

Two reconstructed animals

According to the Redster it was her stuffed Andrex puppy’s birthday (known as Stephanie, indispensable at bedtime). I think we made more fuss of her than we did of the Cutester, who turned four on Monday… of which more anon.