“I’m not a human!!! I’m a girl!!!” – Lark, aged 35 months
My daughter is an animal.
As I write this, she’s lounging on the couch in her undies, eating cream cheese straight out of the container. With her hands.
In some ways, she’s right. She’s not a human being just yet. She’s a toddler. Toddlers are really teeny wild beasts that we adults have to mould into full-fledged humans. Homo sapiens have all of these great ideas; like manners, culture, inventions, et cetera, et cetera. These are the things that set us apart from the other animals, yes?
As a result, from the second our offspring are born, we begin the process of trying to teach them the rules around this humanity stuff. To start with: don’t hit, don’t yank things away from other kids, say please, keep your clothes on in public, bathe at regular intervals, don’t pick your nose, eat nicely, and so on.
Lark’s had a very different kind of childhood from my son; one that has allowed her many freedoms that he never had. Because of this, I’m more inclined to let her spend a bit more time being an animal. She’s got the rest of her life to be a human.
On some fronts, she’s already well ahead of the game. She’s ridiculously polite. She seems to come by it naturally, without ever having been prodded to say please or thank you. She’ll say things like, “Thank you for making us such a lovely dinner, Daddy.” Or, “I’m so glad you bought me a ballet skirt Mummy, thank you SO MUCH!”
Unlike most other parents, Craig and I haven’t focused too much on the manners end of things. Frankly, we’ve had bigger fish to fry than to remind our son to say please at every juncture. We model good manners (mostly) but don’t insist upon them. But we’ve ended up with one kid who makes rude demands and forgets his thank-yous, and another who acts like she’s attended an etiquette seminar for preschoolers.
However, in some other aspects of her journey to becoming a full-time human, she’s definitintely still a wild thing. Since the time Lark figured out how to get her clothes off on her own, she’s almost always nude at home. She just finds clothes unnecessary and restrictive. She peels her offending garments off, shouting, “I just want to be mak-ed!” accompanied by the cutest bum wiggle. She literally has no shame. AND NOR SHOULD SHE BECAUSE SHE’S TWO. The rest of the world, for various reasons, feel that she should be properly clothed. Admittedly, as the months have passed, and she approaches the wise old age of three, she’s started to become less likely to strip off in public, which is a relief, as I don’t have to field the looks-like-you’ve-got-a-nudist-on-your-hands comments from passers-by.
I don’t have any issues with her running around rudie-nudies 24-7. But secretly, I fear I’m failing her in the bathing department. Oh, she loves having a bath or shower. She’s not noticeably smelly, with flies revolving around her head or anything.
But. She despises getting her hair washed. Like screaming, kicking, tries to climb out of the bath hates it. This has been going on since forever. I now have a mild case of PTSD in relation to washing her hair. I’m surprised that no one has called emergency services to our door because of the sheer volume of hair-washing screams.
None of us need that kind of stress in our lives, so what ends up happening is that the hair wash doesn’t. Happen, that is.
You don’t want to know how long we go between washes. Her hair always looks amazing, a kind of silky golden baby-curl that salons the world over would love to replicate. Maybe there’s something to be said for not washing your hair, like, ever?
And just when you think something’s going to continue the same way for the rest of your life, your kids go and change or grow up or become a little more human. Last night, after writing this, when she was in the bath, I asked her if I could wash her hair.
“Sure!” she said. Amazingly.
“Really?” I asked, holding the shower a decent distance away from her head.
“Yes,” she said firmly. “But no shampoo.”