Pickle goes to her very own nursery these days. Upon arrival, she looks vaguely behind her and waves with a shooing motion as she instantly immerses herself in painting or in physically refereeing the nearest toddler squabbling match (i.e. sticking her nose in a bust-up).
Every time we pick her up she seems to have grown up a bit. She knows a song I haven’t taught her, or a trick I thought she was too small for, or a phrase of which her Grandmothers will not approve (I have been so careful to only ever exclaim ‘oh my goodness’ in a shiny-teethed manner. Honest I have. I might’ve slipped out the odd ‘shit’ or even ‘fuck’ but, I promise, I am almost 100% sure I have never uttered ‘Oh My God.’ This is in case, Grandmothers, you are reading).
Pickle’s nursery means that Ziggler and I have the odd morning alone together these days. It feels like a long time since we were just us two, mooching about. We both enjoy our little excursions. I was just about to call them ‘folies a deux.’ Quite glad I bothered googling to check that’s what I meant. You could argue it’s appropriate, but it’s not what I meant. I meant we both enjoy our morning jaunts.
ANYWAY. Today our morning took us shopping. Ziggler’s choice. We needed some paper and pens, and a birthday card. And a Hello Kitty umbrella. And a ‘Dora the Explorer’ playset. And some truly hideous pink jellybean sandals. Oh, and a large chocolate muffin and a grown-up lady’s necklace and matching earrings. And a pink sparkly cover for Zigglers phone that SHE DOESN’T fricking OWN YET.
As we were arguing over exactly which of these essential items we would buy, I had a simultaneous flash back and forward. I remembered a gruelling shopping trip with my mum, me aged about 8, in which I persuaded her to buy me some silver sparkly high heeled sandals purely by whining and refusing any others. And then I could hear mum’s phantom cackle of glee echoing around the halls of Lewisham Riverdale Centre as an image of mine and the girls’ future shopping trips formed itself in my mind. I saw us in mall after gleaming mall, changing room after cubicle. And in every shop and city street we were arguing about a pair of truly hideous pink jellybean sandals.
This time, I won the argument.
Next, Ziggler and I rolled up at McDonalds for our lunch. Yes, McDonalds. Yes, I am middle class and I live in South East London and I own a Phil and Ted’s and I took my 4-year-old to MCDONALDS. It feels good to admit it. I’ll also admit that I was quite gratified that Ziggler thought we were going to a farm, and that I realised I had lost the knack of ordering food in there and felt like my mother circa 1985 on a Yorkshire high street, wondering where they kept the cutlery. Ziggler, I’m sorry to report, loved it. She chose our seats and sat down on her own. She read the picture instructions for her crappy free toy and told me how to assemble it. We had a really pleasant few minutes playing with it. And then she started to sing along to a pop song on the radio that I had never heard before.
Ziggler starts school in September. She wants to grow her hair, and she wants to ride horses for a job when she’s a grown-up, even though she’s never ridden a horse in her 4 years. She told me the other day, when a smaller kid nicked her baby doll, that she had pretended to cry and actually didn’t care. She can go on the big-girl swings at the playground, and if a friend is there too she won’t want me to watch her or catch her or lift her up. She’ll run along and play. I can’t say I’m sorry that this new phase is beginning – I’ve been honest enough about how I’ve felt about the grind of the early years. But as I watched her singing, swinging her long legs and daydreaming I felt a little prick of sorrow at the loss of baby Ziggler, and toddler Ziggler, and preschooler Ziggler. I know that big girl Ziggler will have more secrets and wider influences and a whole life separate from me. For a second I wanted to keep her here, and now – my baby.
And then the helium balloon we’d got in Mcdonalds slipped from Ziggler’s hand and floated away above the car park, and Ziggler cried, and then pretended to cry, and then got in a big tantrummy grump. And we picked up Pickle, who was emphatically delighted to see us and and then spent the afternoon insisting on wearing knickers, dribbling a trail of wee around the house and most certainly not wanting to sit on the loo or the potty.
We’re not there yet. But things are changing. And the change is a welcome, fabulous, tremulous and wistful thing.