“What sound does a cow make?”
Umph? I stare at my two year old son. A cow goes umph? Only if it trips over a cow pat. I look up at the health visitor, who is in turn looking at my child with a barely disguised air of disappointment. I just love these developmental tests, they really seem to bring out the best in my offspring.
The health visitor, who for the purposes of brevity I shall call Annoying (abbreviated from the more formal Annoyingly Smug About Childcare Skills), tries again and points to a chicken.
“What sound does this animal make?”
There is a pause. I am attempting to telepathically communicate the word CLUCK to B. I know he knows it. He knows he knows it. And I am pretty damn sure that he knows that I know that he knows it. But he seems determined not to let Annoying know any of this, for fear I may, in a certain light whilst squinting, look like a competent parent.
“Moo,” he replies.
Moo? MOO?! Bloody moo? What sort of a chicken goes moo? He’s doing this on purpose, I think, as I watch Annoying write something down on her form. Just because I wouldn’t let him stick his finger up my nostril this morning, it seems that it’s now payback time.
“Okay,” chirps Annoying. “Let’s try one last animal, shall we? What sound does a pig make?”
I glare at my son. He knows what this particular non-verbal communication means all too well. It is the international scowl of ‘don’t you bloody dare’.
“Oink,” he answers begrudgingly. Thank fuck for that.
“So, let’s move onto colours,” Annoying says. My heart sinks. My son is utterly crap at colours. So was his brother. It must be a genetic flaw on his father’s side, as I am pretty sure my first words were ‘turquoise’ and ‘burnt umber’.
I sigh as the colour chart is laid out before him. I look at the first swatch: red. I mentally bet myself a fiver that he calls it yellow.
“What colour is this?”
“Lellow.” Well. I may have a thicko for a son, but at least I’m a fiver up.
“Good try… but that’s red. Let’s try the next one. What colour is this?”
“No, that’s blue. Let’s try again.”
And so it goes on. Lellow, lellow, lellow. All the way through the sodding colour spectrum. Why Annoying doesn’t just call it quits after green, I don’t know, because if a child thinks red and blue are both the colour yellow, I think it is safe to assume that he is not going to recognise purple or brown.
Annoying looks up at me. “You really need to teach him his colours now, mum.” Instantly I grind my teeth at being called mum. My name is on the sheet of paper less than a foot away from her face. Would it be too much to ask for her to use my actual name rather than reduce me to a relational component of my offspring? (You can tell I am getting mad, I start to use words of more than three syllables).
And so that becomes our parenting mission, to teach our two year old his colours. Whenever the opportunity arises, I ask him what colour a certain object is.
“Lellow,” he always replies.
Even his brother starts to lend a hand. “What colour is this?” he asks, waving a blue Lego brick in front of him.
We walk through the nursery car park one morning.
“What colour is that car?” I ask casually.
“Not quite, it’s blue.”
What colour is this car,” I say, pointing to the next one.
Oh for crying out loud.
“No, that’s black. This one?”
There is a pause before he looks up at me.
“It’s your turn to say,” he states and walks purposefully toward the nursery entrance. So that’s told me then.
A few days later, we seem to have a bit of a break through. I ask him what colour a red ball is.
“Red,” he replies. Bingo. I duly clap and high five him, then slightly giddy on success, I hold up a blue train.
“And what colour is this?”
“No, this is blue. What about this?” I point to a green stuffed toy.
At this point, I may have laid my head on the table for a while and pretended I was somewhere else.
In a last ditch attempt to help my son away from his monochrome outlook on the world of colour, I dig out a kid’s colour book.
I point to a red square. Let’s start with an easy one.
“What colour is this?”
He stares solemnly at the shape in silence.
So…” I say at last, “what colour is it?”
Still there is silence.
I may need to give him a clue. “It’s rrrrrrr…?”
He looks at me. “Rr-lellow?”
Is he taking the piss? “No, it’s not rrlellow,” I reply. “It’s rrrrrr…?”
I take a deep breath. Then another. I may need a brown paper bag to breathe into if this carries on. A brown paper bag which, I am fairly sure, my son would call lellow. Or perhaps rlellow, whatever sodding colour THAT is supposed to be.
“Not rrblue, no,” I say. “Because that’s not actually a colour, is it? It’s “rrrrrr…?” I tap the red square, perhaps a tad harder than is strictly necessary.
“Rrr-green,” he says.
I close the book. “That’s right, it’s rrgreen. Now. Shall we read Postman Bear?”