Enfant terible

July 03, 2010 Bloggies by Steve Martin Edit

“More” she says, and charges across the kitchen head first into my thigh... “thwack”. She runs back across the room. “More”. Here she comes again, this time head aimed squarely at my groin.... “thump”. “MORE!” comes the shout and she’s coming me again. Emily has invented a new game and it seems to be called Head-butt Dad. She is a wild child, a so called "enfant terrible". The game goes on all afternoon whenever she can’t think of anything else to do.

My little girl, at less than 2 years is streets ahead of her brother at the same age. Emily has decided that talking and asserting herself on the world is important and fun. Her favourite word is “No” [a bit like “Computer says, No” from Little Britain]. Emily has truly arrived on this journey.

When we left Australia the thought of dragging an 18 month old around the world was more than a bit daunting. For one thing it meant we had to have a stroller with us to get around. Then there was food and sleeping and keeping her entertained. James is relatively easy. He mostly wants to be with us doing what we are doing. But Emily has always seemed to know her own mind.

As the second child sometimes I feel like she’s missed out a bit. James is developing so fast and doing so much, that much of what she learns and begins gets overlooked. Then there’s just the burden of being number 2. Her first steps were great, but not as exciting as when your first child does it. Her first real word “Shoes” was bizarre and exciting, but when your first child finally says Mum or Dad and actually means iot for the first time, it’s hard to compare.

But when a now 21 month old little girl can let you know quite clearly what she does and does not want; when she will put her shoes and socks on herself, and tell you she wants her hair up in a pony tail; and when she insists she wants to wear a particular dress, you start to realise just how much she has grown  and become her own definite person.

There is a downside to this and that is her stubborn independence. Where James wants us all the time, Emily will trundle along happily on her own when she wants and she’ll go and work things out for herself. She will sit and study something until she knows what to do, or she’ll wander outside to the swingset and find a lost toy to play with.

The first we knew the other day that she had decided to go exploring was when the dogs started barking and we heard Emily scream.

We share our couple of acres with Vera. Vera lives 100 metres away and is the mother of the owners. She is a 90 year old former UK farmer living in rural Normandy who speaks not a word of French. She is independent and a good chatter and she is also looking after the dogs, Jojo and Amber.

The dogs are barkers and they protect their patch. They bark and snarl at me every time I go to visit Vera and feed the chooks, but they always back down when I tell them sharply to “Sidown”. They are well behaved, but they are not used to children.

When you think your daughter is with her mother, and when her mother thinks she’s with you, and in the distance the dogs start barking hard and fast at something and you hear your daughter scream, your heart stops just for that moment as you realise the danger she’s in.

I sprinted. Down the gravel drive, barking my own commands at the dogs as I went. Vera was sharply ordering them back as well. All I could see through the long grass and trees were flashed of white dog and pink T-shirt separated by just a couple of metres. “EMILY” I heard call from over my shoulder, Jo was right behind me.

As I got around the bend our road, there was my little girl. Was there blood? Was she bitten? I was running and scanning Emily and I realised the dogs had done what they do every other time. Rush at the intruder barking and snarling, and then retreat. My little girl was safe and unharmed, but crying and trembling and covered in her own tears. I picked her up and held her tight and did the closer inspection as she wrapped herself around me and dove into my neck. “She’s OK, she’s OK” I told Jo.

Despite all of this within minutes she’s looking at the dogs and pointing. “Dod” she tells me “dod” with a nod of the head to make sure I’m aware. “Yes chicken, there’s the dogs” I breathe.

Three hours later it’s Emily on the attack. “More”..... “Ha ha”. Then comes the crunch as she runs as hard as she can and dips her head as she crashes into my chest. She is barely able to stand with the fit of giggles consuming her body. “More”..... here she comes again!