Before my daughter was born, one of the (many) things I worried about was that she might take after me.
Oh look; it’s not that I dislike myself. I mean: I’m grand. I’m not psychotic, and only sociopathic to a socially acceptable degree. I’m exceptionally loyal and, if I like you, I’ll do most things within the legal spectrum for you. And OMG I am the most AMAZING drunk-dancer.
But on the other hand, I’m relatively stingy. My trash-talk is needlessly complicated and I’m prone to pedantry. I’m high-volume and a bossy britches and a bit of a know-it-all. Overall, I’m definitely most effective in small doses.
(Who needs character assassination when you can commit character suicide?)
Anyway. Saoirse’s little personality took a while to establish itself. As a newborn, she had reflux and wind and problems nursing. When she was just three weeks old, I contracted an infection and Saoirse lost weight dramatically. Perhaps as a consequence, she cleaved to me and nobody else could settle her, which was intense and precious yet at the same time wearying.
But also, Saoirse’s arrival was like a depth-charge into the heart of our family. Finn became demanding and clingy before completely rejecting me in favour of his father. In addition to working full-time, Husband took over Finn’s primary care, so after a couple of months we were all pretty blitzed. It is a source of some grief that, although Saoirse’s babyhood is more recent, I can recall Finn’s early weeks and months with better clarity than my daughter’s.
As Saoirse’s health improved and the dense fog of exhaustion gradually dissipated, we started noticing the colossal wattage of character packed into her tiny frame.
She is an indomitable little soul with a gigantic giggle which she deploys generously. On the B-side, she has a roar that would melt the face off you – and spins from joy to fury and back in an instant: “THIS IS FUCKING OUTRAGEOUS! I WILL COMPLAIN TO THE HIGHEST AUTHORITY! WHAT; WHO? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS YOU LOUSY BUNCH OF INCOMPETENT FUCKERS- Mummyyyyy! Aw, you picked me up – HURRAY! Snuggles?! MORE HURRAY! Mmm, I’m just going to gom your face a while. Know what you need? Drool! Which is something I just so happen to have in plentiful supply. Here’s some- eh, I’m feeling generous; have lots- let me just- rub it in with my tongue- oh, why don’t I just use my whole head? THERE!”
(So sorry about the language; I’ve no idea where she gets it.)
It’s difficult to tell whether or how badly Saoirse’s hurt, because she applies the same blood-curdling bellow to trapping her head in the rubbish bin as to biting my (obviously unanticipatedly gristly) cheek. However, she’s ridiculously easy to console. So far, there’s been no injury that hasn’t been instantly fixed with a snuggle.
It’s a different story when there’s a principle at stake – like the other evening, when she wept piteously complete with raw, wracking sobs for HALF AN HOUR because I wouldn’t let her eat the plug off the vacuum cleaner.
An intensely social little girl, she hasn’t stopped chatting since she started making sounds. Between Saoirse and myself, poor Andrew and Finn hardly get a word in edgeways.
When Finn was her age, we spent hours encouraging him to point, reach, roll, sit, crawl. Every microscopic achievement was celebrated, feted and photographed.
About three months ago, “Look! The baby!” I said, pointing. “She’s sitting.”
We all stared at Saoirse, who was, indeed, sitting; tapping her foot impatiently on the floor. Chances are she’d been doing so for weeks and we just hadn’t noticed. Saoirse has had to figure these things out by herself – although it doesn’t seem to have held her back. She’s such a determined little thing, I’m sure she saw it as a challenge.
In contrast to her older brother, Saoirse couldn’t wait to get going. After she mastered sitting she turned her considerable abilities to crawling and, within days, mastered a metronomic crawl of devastating speed. Shortly after this she was standing – although the closest she’s come to walking is an ecstatic wiggle she employs when laid out on the floor. It looks like if I flipped her 90° she would literally hit the ground running.
She takes after her father in being a committed speed-monster. We recently acquired a bike trailer and she’s pretty uninspired by my slogging up slopes. But she chortles all the way downhill as we career around corners, jouncing over rocks and pinecones.
We were anxious about Finn’s involuntary promotion to ‘Big Brother’ but he is wonderful: hugely affectionate – although perhaps a little too solicitous about the temperature of Saoirse’s head and whether it needs to be wrapped in a blanket. And occasionally his expression of love can be a touch too energetic – or ‘violent’ to the untrained eye.
“Finn. Why is Saoirse crying?”
“I bopp’d her onna da head.”
“Well, um. Please don’t bop her on the head.”
“<nodding emphatically> YES! Ok, Mum.”
But I have no fear for Saoirse. What she lacks in bodily mass and dexterity, she compensates in guile and treachery. She likes nothing more than getting Finn into trouble: waiting until he unwittingly stumbles into an incriminating position before shrieking as if he’s torturing her.
I always know when Finn’s done it because he runs away; otherwise, he just stands there surrounded by planted evidence looking guilty.
Saoirse is magnificent and evidently in no way takes after me at all. She is entirely her own crazy little diamond; and she dazzles.
And we are all ensorcelled